It was one of those days where everyone involved in the fashion industry remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing. The afternoon of February 11th 2010. The world lost (to trot out the clichés) a visionary, a revolutionary and one of the best creative forces history has ever seen. If you haven’t already guessed who I’m talking about (and if you claim to be interested in fashion, you should be ashamed of yourself!) I’m talking about Alexander McQueen.
The powerhouse of creativity managed to redefine the boundaries of what fashion could be during his relatively short career. Whilst Prada, Gucci, Lanvin and the rest of the fashion week circuit paraded repetitive styles and shapes in repetitive patterns and materials, with basic unimaginable runway shows every six months, Alexander McQueen could always be counted on to create a positively explosive spectacle at every opportunity.
In 1999 it was the Rebecca Horn-inspired paint guns of No. 13, which created a dress right on the runway; in 2001 it was his VOSS collection which revolved around the consideration of beauty and featured a caged woman who would not be considered conventionally beautiful to demonstrate that beauty comes from within. Every year his shows were original, his collections unique and the psychological thought processes behind his creations seemingly perverse to some.
Because of his immense power and influence in the industry, once he had passed away, the inevitable question arose as to who would be his successor. Who would take on the herculean task of trying to helm this business, which by this point had become indistinguishable from the man himself? It turned out to be long-time colleague and personal friend Sarah Burton who chose to take on the role of a lifetime, and with it took on the incredible risk of trying to keep not only the business, but also the distinctive McQueen aesthetic, alive.
She essentially had two choices when she took on the job: she could either try and copy McQueen’s outlandish style, replicating the incredible showcases, or try and take the brand in a new direction, and create her own signature take on the McQueen aesthetic. The former, quite honestly, would have constituted professional suicide. No one could have done what McQueen did, no one could have replicated the, in his own words, “psychological way of dressing” that defined his career. He said that through his work “I… transform mentalities more than the body. I try and modify fashion like a scientist by offering what is relevant today and what will continue to be so tomorrow”. There was, and I mean this is the nicest way possible, no way in hell that Sarah Burton could replicate this attitude and successfully translate it into her collections the way McQueen did, which left her with the latter option – trying to put her own spin on the brand’s image and lead it somewhere new. It may only be my opinion, but arguably, we have seen that over the last few collections, her success has been phenomenal.
For Part Two of Three of this article, come back to the blog tomorrow!
by Jack Warlaw