If you were confused by the roll-out of fashion seasons before Covid-19, you’d be forgiven for abandoning all attempts at making sense of the schedule now. It’s my job, and yet nowadays I often find that making sense of which designer is unveiling which collection at any given time turns me into the proverbial Charlie-at-the-post-office-in-It’s Always Sunny meme, agitated and out of my mind with the confusion of it all. For example, brands started unveiling their fall winter ’21 collections within a few days of the spring summer ’21 haute couture shows debuting, and only a couple of months after many brands—Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Celine—debuted their spring summer ’21 collections (there is usually a six-month gap between the two).
Then there were the menswear collections last month—although some of the menswear autumn-winter ’21 shows had debuted alongside womenswear in the Resort ’21 season, in order to decrease the overall number of runway shows each season… In short? The whole notion of traditional seasons is thrown out of the window. Alexander McQueen’s latest collection—a combination of ‘pre-spring’ 2021 womenswear and spring summer ’21 menswear—only added to the confusion, offering something closer to a see-now, buy-now model. At some point, you just have to throw your hands up and say “Who cares!”—especially when the clothes are this beautiful.
Sarah Burton’s tenure at Alexander McQueen has been defined by a kind of ‘quiet achiever’ status—she makes clothes that are intelligent and timely, without ever feeling needlessly swayed by trends. They are often among the best collections of any given fashion month—achieving this while staying consistently true to the house codes: exquisite tailoring, the blending of masculine and feminine elements, and homage to the house’s British roots.
For pre-spring womenswear and spring summer menswear these same ideas were out in force—though notably more restrained than usual. The collections featured only a handful of looks each, all of which are variations on suiting, and most of which were made from home, during London’s perpetual Covid-19 lockdown, with upcycled deadstock from the McQueen studio. The collection is an ode to tailoring, with collection notes stating: “The British tailoring tradition lies at the heart of the house of Alexander McQueen. Each season it is reinvented—renewed.”
This renewal comes in the form of hyper-feminine cuts, available for both men and women (backless cutouts for the former, nipped at the waist with exaggerated lapels for the latter). Trench coats are dissected and respliced with Prince of Wales check wool, and all looks were elevated with lashings of chunky gold and silver jewellery.
The whole collection was so restrained, thoughtful, and—perhaps above all—wearable, that it reminds us, as Sarah Burton so often does, of the extreme importance of consistency in fashion. The temptations for designers to be swayed by the dictates of social media, where the lifespan of a trending item is ever-shorter, must be enormous. But McQueen have always stayed in their own lane, head down, laser-focused on the things they do exceptionally. In 2021, it’s a refreshing and relevant ethos, one which many brands—particularly as we question our industry’s needless creation of waste—could take lessons from.