Perhaps London’s tumultuous skies knew they were the star of Alexander McQueen’s latest collection. As guests gathered at the top of a multistorey car park in the east of the city to witness the unveiling of the brand’s spring/summer 2022 collection, moody-looking clouds danced overheard before begrudgingly clearing the way for an unexpected burst of October sunshine.
For its first physical show since the onset of the pandemic, Alexander McQueen decided to bring things home. The car park in Wapping provided just enough grit to remind us that this unassuming brand may have grown into a luxury powerhouse, but its roots remain firmly entrenched in the streets of London. Even VIP guests had to queue to enter the cramped lift that would transport them up to the 16th floor.
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures from the Alexander McQueen show:
Last year, for spring/summer 2021, creative director Sarah Burton invited us to immerse ourselves in the murky depths of the River Thames via an evocative short by director Jonathan Glazier, where gowned women waded through water, hid amid bridges or made angels in the mud on the river’s banks.
This season, Burton invited us to cast our eyes higher. “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,” she wrote in her show notes. “We moved from water – and the mud on the banks of the Thames – to the sky and the ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence that represents.”
Guests were seated within a transparent bubble designed by architect Smiljan Radic (the man behind the brand’s London and Dubai flagship stores), high enough above the surrounding buildings to feel connected to the skies. In the run-up to the show, the sounds of a storm reverberated through the space, setting the tone for the spectacle ahead. In attendance were British actresses Emilia Clarke and Vanessa Kirby, Bollywood celebrity Sonam Kapoor, designer Daphne Guinness, singer Soko and a smattering of influencers and TikTok stars.
London’s skies, as unpredictable and changeable as the city itself, were documented and reimagined in a collection that incorporated many of the McQueen signatures. “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 St Paul’s Cathedral to the London Eye,” explained Burton.
“We watched the weather, and captured the formation and colouration of clouds from daybreak to nightfall, and documented changing patterns from clear blue skies to more turbulent ones.”
Clouds wisped their way across skirts, or were alluded to in parachute sleeves on a crisp white shirt dress. Gentle hues of blue, orange and yellow danced across a taffeta dress to capture the colour of the sky at daybreak; while a corset dress with a parachute skirt came in a dreamy shade of pale sky blue. Silks in soft sunshine yellow and dusky pink contrasted with cropped jackets, bra tops, skirts and biker skirts in jet black leather.
Burton’s trademark silhouettes and masculine tailoring appeared as sculpted coats that doubled as dresses, with capacious bomber sleeves; a trench coat with exaggerated shoulders; and a double-breasted tailored jacket in Prince of Wales check, paired with high-waisted peg trousers with spliced zip detailing.
A tank dress was covered in shards of blue crystal to mimic sheets of rain, while elsewhere, crystal embroidery cascaded over the shoulders of a double-breasted jacket in grey wool. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, seemingly making as many runway appearances at the age of 51 as she did in her 1990s heyday, closed the show in a skeletal corset dress and single-breasted jacket with crystal embroidery.
In the process of putting together this latest collection, Burton familiarised herself with the concept of storm chasing. “I love the idea of the McQueen woman being a storm chaser … Storm chasing is about not only 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.”
This deep appreciation of the natural world has been a cornerstone of Alexander McQueen’s creative output since the brand was founded. From the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands to the industriousness of bees and the infinite diversity of flora and fauna, nature has long shaped the brand’s aesthetic.
This relationship is explored in depth in a new exhibition at the flagship store on London's Old Bond Street. Titled Roses, the showcase features couture dresses from the Alexander McQueen archives, as well as pieces by the late Lee McQueen, and sketches and photographs detailing the painstaking process behind each creation.
From Burton’s 2019 Rose dress, to the floral creations from the now-famous Sarabande collection, to a burlap dress from spring 1999 that has floral tapestries snaking up the front, the exhibition celebrates the brand’s relationship with nature, offering a stunning interplay between past and present, and a reminder that curiosity and craft remain at the heart of this quintessentially British brand.