After the rain, comes the sun.
Off the official schedule, the fashion set flocked to Wapping, in the East End where Sarah Burton brought Alexander McQueen, one of fashion’s most important houses back to home turf for the first time in 20 years.
Tobacco Dock’s Yellow Park was transformed into a giant bubble-like structure designed by architect Smiljan Radic, that perched on top of an 11 story car park. The Shard and the Gerkin looked on proudly, providing a magnificent backdrop of a somewhat burdened city.
“I am interested in immersing myself in the environment in which we live and work, in London, and in the elements as we experience them each day. We moved from water – and the mud on the banks of the Thames – to the sky and the ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence that it represents,” said Burton.
The collection darted between hard and soft, in the way Burton does with pure joy. Exquisitely tailored jackets offset with bomber jacket sleeves and dramatic corseted full-skirted gowns, interjected by fierce leathers and parachute skirting. Buckled dresses printed with imagery depicting sunrises and clouds drew inspiration from the skyscapes the McQueen team had captured from the studio balcony.
“The artwork for the prints in this collection was shot from the rooftops of the studio where we are lucky enough to have the most incredible views of the city: from Saint Paul’s Cathedral to the London Eye. We watched the weather and captured the formation and coloration of clouds from daybreak to nightfall and documented changing patterns, from clear blue skies to more turbulent ones,” said Burton.
The push and pull of darkness and light and the unpredictable powers of nature were brought to life by a particularly clever casting; a menagerie of character models challenging the industry’s perceived ideals felt both honest and authentic in its delivery. While friends of the brand, such as actors Vanessa Kirby, Emilia Clarke, and Kosar Ali, sat dotted between guests as a sound installation by John Gosling featured Massive Attack’s Safe From Harm and Daniel Avery’s Yesterday Faded echoed around the bubble.
“I love the idea of the McQueen woman being a storm chaser. Storm chasing is not only about the beauty of the views but also a sense of mystery and excitement about embracing the fact that we can’t ever be sure of what might happen next. To give up control and be directly in touch with the unpredictable is to be part of nature, to see and feel it at its most intense – to be at one with a world that is bigger and more powerful than we are,” said Burton.
As Naomi Campbell closed the show in a cropped black jacket splashed with crystal raindrops, the sound of thunder reverberated around the bubble, perhaps acting as a microcosm for how small and ultimately powerless we are in comparison to nature and its often brutal and unpredictable elements. Has Covid-19 changed us? I think so. These are quieter and more reflective times and Burton’s intimate and dignified collection felt optimistic we are moving collectively in the right direction.