Creative Director Sarah Burton tells us why Alexander McQueen isn’t a brand, it’s a religion

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From the opulent and elaborate rites of mass to the eerie ambience of candle-lit Gregorian chanting, ceremonial drama is used to underscore holy ritual. In the gilded surroundings of the Opéra Comique, Sarah Burton harnessed this power to make the AW13 Alexander McQueen collection soar, with ten hyper-worked looks sent out in pairs. “It was presented like a religious journey – communion girls, nuns, cardinals, popes and angels,” Burton says. “I was expecting (a child) when we were developing pre-fall and AW13 so I had to develop the collections in advance. We looked at ecclesiastical references and decided to focus on the low church for pre-fall and the high church for AW13.”

Alexander McQueen
Taken from the November 2013 issue of Dazed & Confused

“High” is the operative word: the dizzying splendour of the pearl-encrusted narrative that ran through the pieces and adorned the frames encasing the models’ faces was a feat worthy not just of serious worship but a haute-couture stamp. “There are definitely couture qualities in the collections,” Burton says. “Craftsmanship is incredibly important and a focus for us when designing the collection.” It was a moment of unbridled imagination that pushed the McQueen vocabulary towards new frontiers. Super-embellished surfaces swirling with 3D lace flowers and stitched-in metallic rhombic patterns were pinned on archetypal caged and corseted McQueen silhouettes and hoop skirts, softened with ostrich feathers and virginal organdy lace to expand what has become Burton’s distinctly feminine depiction of the McQueen universe.

Alexander McQueen
All clothes and accessories Alexander McQueen AW13
Photography by Richard Burbridge

Where there’s a heaven, there’s a hell, especially in the case of McQueen, where light has always been fuelled by darkness. Here it came in the shape of black leather and embellished grid stockings, which lent a sense of erotic danger and wickedness to the saintly silhouettes and swoosh-skirted Virgin Queens as they trotted out trussed up in harnesses and lace-up ivory boots, wielding precious pearl knuckleduster rings. It was an elated fantasy ride and a monumental demonstration of Burton’s creative scope. “Lee often said that you had to learn the rules to break them,” she says. “In designing and creating garments, you need to learn and research on construction and techniques before you can produce something truly modern, contemporary and innovative. Knowing the past is probably key to building the present and the future.”

Alexander McQueen
All clothes and accessories Alexander McQueen AW13
Photography by Richard Burbridge

Photography Richard Burbridge
Styling Robbie Spencer
Hair Raphael Salley
Make up Peter Philips
Nails Sophy Robson
Models Kirsi Pyrhonen at Viva and Magdalena Jasek at Select
Photographic assistants Kim Reenberg, Rhys Thorpe
Styling assistant Coline Bach
Make-up assistant Nina Deweerd
Digital operator Andrew Kenney
Producer Jessica Daly at Art + Commerce
Casting Noah Shelley for AM Casting
Dazed Group Ltd

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