Down By The Thames

…where it’s dank and dreary, Sarah Burton showed a collection for Alexander McQueen damp with the damper

So, the showing of spring/summer 2021 collections is still on-going. At this point, so close to what would be the first deliveries of the next season, it is unsurprising that many people can’t keep up. One product manager told us that he’s “so confused”. Alexander McQueen’s collection for next spring was just shown, and the brand is taking “pre-orders” on its website. Is that a new iteration of the now mostly forgotten see-now-buy-now model, once so fervently touted by the likes of Burberry and Tom Ford? Or, is this deliberately turning one’s nose up at conventional fashion-season schedules. Or, a brand “lead(ing) its own rhythm”, just as Saint Laurent has, when they announced on Instagram back in April?

Whatever the case, brands are finding ways to show to pique both customer and media-watcher interest. Alexander McQueen has eschewed the fashion show (even a reinterpreted one) for a fashion film by the English film-maker/commercial director Jonathan Glazer that shows both the women’s spring/summer 2021 collection and the men’s pre-fall 2021. Shot in a not-so-stunning part of the English river Thames, the film is what optimists might call “gritty”, compared to another on-location showing just days earlier: Saint Laurent’s stunning runway presentation in a North African desert. The Thames is not the Seine, and the film’s setting is perhaps a deliberate counterpoint to Sarah Burton’s underwhelming frocks. Those who love to uncover fashion film messages would consider this a worthy challenge, as they wonder what the two women opening the film were doing in the water, searching for a picnic their friends were already partaking (why could they have not walked on the river bank?). And why waste good tulle by making a model dressed in a froth create an angel shape in the mud?!

Perhaps mud and the muck are tropes for Sarah Burton being somewhat stuck in a sludge of sameness. In the early year since taking over Alexander McQueen after his death, Ms Burton has tried to put out some semblance of those complex and challenging cuts that the former was known for, with hints of consumable historicism. But in the ensuing years, it became one “love letter to women” after another. Ms Burton’s inability to push Alexander McQueen the brand further than just pretty clothes is one of the reasons why look-back Instagram accounts such as #mcqueen_vault is well and alive, and followed. There is no denying that Ms Burton is technically well-grounded, but that is not indication of the flair that made Mr McQueen the name once on everyone’s lips.

The film let on very little. So we viewed the lookbook, usually not the ideal medium to capture the mood of the season. It appears that statement sleeves are Ms Burton’s thing for next spring. As dramatic as they are and as alluring as they would be to the selfie-obsessed fashionistas, we feel we have seen it at Viktor and Rolf before. In view of the current social situation, these could well be (timely?) social-distancing sleeves. What is really ho-hum is the corseted bodice (extraordinary?) of fit-and-flare dresses with swirly symmetry of the skirt. These are low-barrier-to-entry designs, and they, like many other pieces, look tired even when it’s visible that, with some of the pieces, considerable work is invested in them. But, given the ease of dressing that women now prefer, must it be so obvious that she had tried this hard?

Photos: Alexander McQueen

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