Sarah Burton calls role at Alexander McQueen 'treasured time' as she preps for last show

The designer is leaving the company after two decades, soon after Paris Fashion Week

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Sarah Burton is departing the label Alexander McQueen after more than two decades, its parent company Kering announced on Monday.

Having first worked at McQueen as an intern while still studying at Central Saint Martins, Burton returned after graduating and quickly became the right hand to the brand's founder Lee McQueen. She was named head of womenswear just two years later.

Having worked alongside founder Lee McQueen so closely before his death in 2010, Burton has a unique understanding that has enabled her to fuse his vision with her own, and allow the house to seamlessly evolve.

Following McQueen's death, she was announced as successor and has led the house ever since.

Royal connections

In 2011, Burton created the wedding dress for Catherine, Princess of Wales. It was inspired by the gown worn by Princess Grace of Monaco, and was covered in lace handmade by the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace. In 2012, Burton was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) the following year for services to fashion.

Burton has remained one of Kate's favourite designers since. The Princess of Wales wore McQueen during Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations, donning a classic white coat dress by the label, as well as for the coronation of King Charles III.

Sartorial splendour

Despite having taken over the label under difficult circumstances, Burton brought her own vision to McQueen, mixing glamour with subversion, and was one of the pioneers of blending full-skirted feminine looks with heavy-soled masculine boots.

Corseting, leather and volume have been a recurring theme through her 13-year tenure, as Burton explored femininity in the modern world, while leaning into heritage and employing traditionally female-led techniques.

An upcoming show this month, during Paris Fashion Week, will be Burton’s last at the house and closes the door on a distinct chapter.

'Indelible mark'

Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive of Kering, said of Burton's tenure: “I am immensely grateful to Sarah, and I want to personally thank her for her work over the past two decades, first alongside Lee Alexander McQueen, where her role was instrumental to his success, and then as creative director since 2010.

“Through her own experience, sensitivity and talent, Sarah continued to evolve the artistic expression of this iconic house. She kept and continued Lee’s heritage, attention to detail and unique vision, while adding her own personal, highly creative touch.”

Gianfilippo Testa, chief executive of Alexander McQueen, said: “We would like to express our immense gratitude to Sarah for writing such an important chapter in the history of the Alexander McQueen House. Her contribution will leave an indelible mark.”

Speaking of her departure, Burton said: “I am so proud of everything I've done and of my incredible team at Alexander McQueen. They are my family, and this has been my home for the past 26 years. I want to thank Francois-Henri Pinault for believing in me and offering me this amazing opportunity.

“Above all I want to thank Lee Alexander McQueen. He taught me so much and I am eternally grateful to him. I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”

Updated: September 12, 2023, 7:37 AM