As the V&A's 'Savage Beauty' exhibition opens in London, Sarah Burton unveils a delicate new beauty for the brand
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s blockbuster tribute to Alexander McQueen’s legacy, ‘Savage Beauty’, opens this week. In the five years since the designer’s tragic suicide, current artistic director Sarah Burton (McQueen’s right-hand woman of many years standing) has been working tirelessly at what you might consider the hardest job in fashion – trying to shape her own vision for McQueen while following in the footsteps of a genius. At last night’s show, Burton triumphed, delivering a softness and beauty that felt totally new.
Here are five reasons our fashion hearts skipped a beat during PFW’s most talked-about show:
1. Decaying-rose inspiration
Inspired by David Sims photographs of the life cycle of the rose, Burton took as her starting point ‘nature, fragility and beauty’ and the idea of a flower in full bloom, beautiful while teetering on the verge of decay. The flower was embossed on black leather, printed on gossamer silk, and unfurled wildly across dresses in the form of huge layered rosettes
2. Mad-Miss Havisham heroines
The collection’s melancholy mourning feel confirmed Victoriana (and Edwardiana if you want to be specific) as one of AW15’s major trends.
Frilled high necklines, long sleeves, elegant floor-length dresses and intricate lace all contributed to a slightly bonkers, locked-in-the-attic air
3. Edward Scissorhands beauty
Burton was fascinated by an exhibition of Edwardian painter Egon Schiele’s work – which found its way into the beauty look in a big way. Make-up maestro Pat McGrath daubed models’ lips with colour just in the centre and worked a shiny, slightly bruised-looking eye, for a doll-like look. Meanwhile hairstylist Guido Palau teased the girls’ hair into candyfloss clouds that were pinned up on their heads in tribute to Schiele-style Edwardian updos.
4. Exquisite antique fabrics
The season’s love affair with rich brocades and jacquards is headline news and Burton showed some of the finest – the jacquard coats woven from metallic and patent threads in blush pink and black took our breath away…
5. Pleating please
We’ve seen it on catwalks galore, in everything from lamé disco dresses to wool midi skirts – yes, for AW15, pleating is the technique we’ll all be talking about. Burton’s take was to work superfine leather into finely pleated folds for a series of standout corset dresses in red and nude.