Some designers talk inspiration: “So I was thinking about Bauhaus…” Some designers talk holidays: “So I was in St. Barth’s with my dogs, fresh off the jet – the turbulence was terrifying and the layover in Reykjavík appalling – and I thought about being a modern nomad…” And then there are the designers who truly talk clothes. That’s the hardest conversation to have – the real conversation – because drilling down into how the product articulates the brand often exposes the weakness of the hype that putatively connects them.
Sarah Burton is so cherishable in this funny and often fake fashion world because she is so very truly saturated in the lore of her house. Plus, she isn’t too pretentious or fearful just to talk product, which is where the strength of her bond to the McQueen codes shines through most purely. The simple concept of this Fall show was, she said, an “exploration of British masculinity: so we definitely chose the right season!” That was a dig at how rubbishly British men attire themselves as soon as the sun comes out – they strip off immediately to expose a belief that “gym” is best served with tonic.
This cruel (but true) aside was excusable via a collection that started with tailoring (of which McQueen anomalously sells a lot), blessedly stripped of the high and sci-fi house shoulder in favour of an “exploded” silhouette pushed out a few centimetres to either side. With an accompanying cinched waist, Burton’s top half looked sleek. Below it, often, was a track pant in luxury fabrics with side stripes that three years ago would have been laughable but today seemed far more reasonable a way to Southern a silhouette than the kicked high pants (to best show off beefily soled boots) that were the house alternative. We drifted through chalk stripe and windowpane iterations of the silhouette.
There was a lot of doubleness afoot in this collection. An awesome shearling looked like two thanks to the inbuilt but extruding underlayer. As did an unignorable scarlet woollen parka, a black-leather-over-russet-leather almost-Harrington, and a chaotically ripped and restored military coat in a whole battle-plan of quilted and olive martial materials.
This viewer was really into the tuxedo–track pant collision of the side-striped luxury jersey underpinnings beneath the black-on-black paisley-embroidered evening jackets, as well as the irregularly stitched top coats with contra-colour paisley pattern. The eaten-away red-check mohair pieces were delectable too.
But the best of it was Burton herself: a designer who designs and isn’t afraid to just talk about that (minor asides against British masculine summer style apart). It would be fascinating to discover whether she has her own codes to pass on as powerfully as she communicates those of McQueen.
This article first appeared in Vogue.com.