Fashion Week has begun in London the collections and, on one of the moodboards at the Alexander McQueen studio in Clerkenwell, images of the Beatles disembarking from a jumbo jet at some point in the 1960s (not long before Flower Power and the Sergeant Pepper shift) take pride of place. You know the ones we mean. Alister Mackie, who works on the collection with the esteemed McQueen menswear team and creative director Sarah Burton. “We’ve got the Beatles getting off planes, very smart, pinstripe and morning suits, double-breasted. Dark, classic daywear. We wanted to follow on from the idea of a journey that we started last season.” And so this collection does. In place of the travels and discoveries of Charles Darwin examined for A/W16, however, is a more recent story, and it suits the handwriting at the heart of this very British name down to the ground.
Here are some of the looks
Suited and Booted
It’s not news that the heritage of the house of Alexander McQueen springs from the Savile Row tailoring tradition, and the rigorous strictures that this entails. Sharp-edged suiting – and, yes, this time there is more than a nod to the 1960s and mod culture in neat double-breasted jackets with a high break and narrow-legged trousers – in black and grey checked and striped wools is very much part of the picture. “Tailcoats, frockcoats, they’re McQueen classics,” whose wildness of heart ensures that edges are best left raw at least some of the time and that there’s no shame to hacking off a sleeve, say. Hence forward things become more heated, however: less sober and more trippy, not to put too fine a point on it.
While last season’s print came from the sketchbooks of Charles Darwin – and his botanical drawings, to be precise – this time around, vintage letters, stamps and postcards (words not pictures) appear across summer-weight coats, bomber jackets, shorts and more. The base colour is a yellowing white which only adds to the romance and resonance of that particular reference, and that inevitably suggests a certain nostalgia and the passing of time. Our hero has moved on from the grey skies of Great Britain into warmer and more exotic climes, and he is telling his loved ones about it. References to Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘safari’ look, first shown in 1968 (perfect timing, then) lead to more tailoring in lighter fabrics and in sun-bleached shades of sand pink, sky blue, custard yellow and (no bleaching in evidence here) brightest vermillion. They represent sartorial elegance at its very finest. “They’ve been to the ashrams and to the mountains,” says Mackie for his part, “and are writing letters back.” It’s a lovely thought.
Only a year before M. Saint Laurent changed the way the world looked in the summer with his by now time-honoured solution to dressing in the heat, a shaggy-haired John Lennon is captured on tour, laughing, wearing a cropped jacket printed with a large sunflower that would bring a smile to even the most jaded lips. And here the embroideries – and metal embroideries in particular – that are also a McQueen signature come to the fore. In this instance the jacket is longer, cut in dazzling yellow silk velvet and densely covered with this flower. Equally evocative of the shift from neat Mod to hippy (it would be foolhardy not to trust one here) is a psychedelic paisley jacquard and a brilliant digitally printed landscape – all burning golden skies and tropical vegetation – populated by jewel-coloured hummingbirds.
The Punk Maharaja
The jewellery that proved both successful and highly influential last season is very much in evidence this time around too. There are shades of that other rock god, Mick Jagger, in collarless tunics edged with Indian-inspired old gold motifs and in Zardozi metal and sequined embroideries. Antique silver nose- and earrings and elaborate face and hand jewellery all with its roots in that country (though punked up, McQueen-style) completes this pleasingly grand and poetic collection aimed squarely at the most committed of peacock males. “We liked the darkness of what we did with the Darwin story last time. “So we’ve taken that jewellery story further and in a more Indian direction. This time, he’s a punk maharaja.”
By Cynthia Lowell