Alexander McQueen Returns to London With a Dreamy Fall Collection

Sarah Burton's down coats and butterfly motifs were not for everyone, but her strengths in craftsmanship mitigated any weaknesses.
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Sarah Burton's down coats and butterfly motifs were not for everyone, but her strengths in craftsmanship mitigated any weaknesses.
A look from Alexander McQueen's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Alexander McQueen's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

Alexander McQueen returned to London Fashion Week on Sunday after years of showing in Paris, for the simple reason that Creative Director Sarah Burton could give birth at any moment. And most certainly, Burton has earned the right not to travel. The homecoming took place at the Royal Horticultural Hall in Westminster, where Burton in fact worked on her first McQueen show 20 years ago, so there was a feeling of nostalgia mixed in with a huge sense of anticipation. All of that hushed the crowd into a reverential silence. Yup, we were as quiet as mice in the Church of McQueen.

The House tells us that the collection was based on movement between sleep and dream and it certainly was a romantic, dreamy fairytale that felt downright Shakespearean in concept. There was lots of delicate gossamer, tulle, feathers and intricate embellishment. On the flip side, there were fierce leathers coats with luxurious fur details and tailoring that set a new standard.

The downy, eiderdown outerwear could be a hit or miss depending on whether a puffy blanket coat is for you. But in any case, it was hard to resist reaching out and touching the clothes as the models glided past, so stratospheric was the quality of materials used and craftsmanship employed. A new peplum sleeve (not like the perched Balmain sleeve from seasons back) seen on a leather coat and dress felt new and fresh.

Still, there were weaknesses. The chain embellishments felt like overkill, and the floral dresses seemed hard to wear — waist cutouts, cold shoulders and cleavage in one look? Burton was also a bit heavy-handed with the butterflies, of which fashion has seen far too many. The eye print was a mystery, too, as both Osman and Isa Arfen have done it in the past.

But other motifs evoked a dreamlike quality: the moon and stars on a cape that seemed destined for a Florence Welch, fanciful unicorns, swans and perfume bottles provided a whimsical touch. One of many showstoppers was a damask bubble-gum pink coat with fur detail — the ultimate ladylike item that already has us rethinking the amount of pink in our own wardrobes.

The strengths mitigated the weaknesses, and that’s especially true with the tailoring, which after all, is the foundation of the house. A sharp, perfectly constructed black-and-white suit was instructional and inspirational, and had 'power dressing' written all over it. (Hillary Clinton may want to wear that Tuesday night at the Anna Wintour and Natalie Massenet-hosted fundraiser for her if she really wants to make an impact.)

Fur scarves worn diagonally across the body lent a regal elegance to the looks and will surely have customers running to the tills. The only thing that was really missing were the McQueen Stalwarts. Where was Kate Moss? Naomi Campbell? Annabel Neilson? They were missed, but not forgotten. A gold dress midway through the collection screamed for Campbell, while Moss would be a perfect match for the bondage-detail trousers. The cobweb tiered gown seemed a downright tribute to Neilson. After all, McQueen is not one to forget its friends and family.

As for those rumors of Burton leaving McQueen for Dior? Our hunch is that she is staying put.