For S/S 18, Sarah Burton chose to stage her menswear collection for Alexander McQueen in Paris. She dabbled with showing in London, before pausing that and crossing the channel. Why? Rumours abound that the London menswear shows might not have the brightest future, what with some of the biggest names combining their menswear and womenswear offers and swapping to the womenswear schedule, so maybe she’s anchoring her ship close to sunnier shores. In Paris, there will always be buyers and there will always be reporters. Here, McQueen doesn’t have the pressure of being a big fish in a small pond.
The location may have changed but the collection was largely business as usual - solid tailoring, some romantic, bohemian elements and lots of studs and metals. Burton and co cleverly avoided doing anything too overtly British, which must have been tempting given the potential of a show in Paris to enforce the history of obsession of the house’s founder. In these times, what with Brexit looming, too much GB promotion would have felt awkward and out of step with the popular mood. Speaking of the latter, the McQueen design team need to do better when it comes to considering who their clothes are for. Who are these suits speaking to? What’s on offer to bring in a young shopper? Does the core clientele understand or care about what’s on the runway?
I was most intrigued by the pieces that looked like they’d been designed with a bit of joy and interest in the way men are dressing today. Puffa jackets that looked utterly normal but were actually leather were great. And broderie anglaise shirting was suitably romantic to feel on point for McQueen but suitably relevant, given the wider trend for long, roomy shirts, to feel interesting. Towards the end, a run of pieces appeared distressed thanks to loose silk threads hanging from embroideries. It was meant to be the drama of the collection but it felt gimmicky - not an interesting enough technical feat to impress, and not modern or fresh visually.
So why move to Paris, I wondered on leaving the show. In years past McQueen could have carved out a unique place by offering a sense of London rebellion on the conservative Paris schedule. Much has changed. Today what with a glut of cool young brands, from Vetements to GmbH, and innovators such as Louis Vuitton’s Kim Jones and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia fusing subculture with luxury on the Paris catwalks, the McQueen aesthetic looks expected, normal even. They’re trying to project an illusion of drama and outsider spirit, but the real fashion rebellions are happening elsewhere now.