Sarah Burton, the creative director for fashion brand Alexander McQueen, has long championed traditional craft in her work. But with her Spring/Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection, she outdid even herself.
If you’re ever craving an instant dose of rapturous and completely transporting beauty (and who isn’t every now and again?), we’ve got just the thing for you: spend time reveling in fashion designer Sarah Burton’s Spring/Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection for Alexander McQueen.
The fashion critics raved about the clothes.
What we can’t get enough of are all the extraordinary, thoughtful details.
Burton is known for incorporating age-old, long-forgotten craft into her work, she’s a bit of a craft archaeologist in this way, and she’s often far more interested in the humble traditions of the handspun than she is in the rarefied skills of ateliers. Perhaps this is in part because she also sees tremendous value in the idea of community. The collective and connected we is more pronounced in her work than any showboating, solitary I.
A beetled linen dress from the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection.Alessandro Lucioni/Gorunway.com
For her Spring/Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear McQueen collection, Burton did a deep dive into the textile arts and traditions of Ireland, which have historically revolved primarily around linen. Ireland was a linen powerhouse for hundreds of years, but by the middle of the 20th century the industry had cratered.
Burton sleuthed out the remaining linen suppliers, manufacturers, specialists and experts, and built her collection around their work. She produced a brand-new damask with the country’s only surviving linen weaver, and sourced bleached linen from a vendor who cures raw yardage by laying it outside to age under the moon and sun.
She also went all-in on the vanishing craft of beetling, for which linen is coated in potato starch and pounded with wood blocks to give it a diaphanous body and crisp, glossy sheen. To procure the yardage, she partnered with a 300-year-old factory that is the world’s last known beetling operation.
The dancing-figure design was hand-stitched onto this linen dress in the collection by the entire McQueen team.Alessandro Lucioni/Gorunway.com
One showstopping dress was made from linen woven with flax sourced from an all-female farm. The dress was covered in embroidered figures that had been drawn by students from Central Saint Martins and was stitched collectively by the entire Alexander McQueen staff, from the designers right down to the accountants, on looms set up by London-based embroidery boosters Stitch-School. Community upon community upon community.
The McQueen team finalizing a dress in the collection that was made with more than 85 yards of upcycled lace and archival cotton tulle and silk organza. The skirt and shoulder ruffles were stitched from more than 3,000 hand-cut circles.
We could go on and on (have we mentioned the garments embellished with embroidered floral motifs, romantically overscaled and depicting endangered flora?), but we suggest that you just treat yourself and discover the rest on your own.
Oh, one last thing: For the runway show’s score, Burton commissioned a lyrical and haunting original composition—“Suspended in Air”—from the modern classical composer Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Phoebe of Fleabag fame), which was played live by the London Contemporary Orchestra. This piece and the commissioning of it are themselves mini strokes of genius, new expressions of beauty, gifts.
Want to see more of the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2020 show?
Flip through stills of the show here.
Listen to a duet play “Suspended in Air” here.
Or experience the whole gorgeous thing at one go with the official recording of the runway show here.