Speak to any designer about what they cherish about their job the most and, no matter their answer, it's most likely to include the word 'process', something which is integral to many established fashion brands, with Sarah Burton's Alexander McQueen being no exception. In truth, the luxurious British label is built on principles that are dedicated to the process and beauty of craft - with the late Lee McQueen himself always choosing collaborators who held similar values, jewellery designer Shaun Leane and milliner Philip Treacy to name a few.
Taking inspiration from the smell of ink on one's fingertips while uncovering the process of painting, making, drawing and creating, Sarah Burton invited 12 creatives - all of whom engage in different mediums - to choose one look from the Alexander McQueen pre-fall 22 collection and create art works in response, documented in a zine, titled after what inspired McQueen and his predecessor Burton the most - Process.
The result? A rich conversation connecting the dots between fashion and art, designers and makers alike.
The new zine (although the term 'zine' implies a waif-like pamphlet, which this is certainly not) is, against all odds, an ode to the physicality of fashion and the arts. It's more than a zine - arguably bigger and better - Process brims with trivia concerning the different stages of each artist's process in creating works inspired by one of the 12 chosen looks. Although the 160-page publication may lack articles, it makes up in double-page spreads and scattered quotes from each artist and their work; all speaking of the techniques they use and why they do what they do. 'I make images for many reasons, but prime among them is that i'm not great with words', chimes one artist, Guinevere van Seenus on page 28, who chose to respond to look 7; a strapless corset dress in crushed silver polyfaille. Another, Ann Cathrin November Høibo, admits, 'I chose all the pink and red looks from the collection. I wanted to make a warm and very feminine environment in my studio, and try to translate that feeling into the work'.
More than going 'behind the scenes', Process is about illustrating the idea that 'creativity emerges from countless perspectives', which creative director Sarah Burton elaborated on in a press statement:
'I wanted to engage in a new creative dialogue with the collection this season and see how the artists interpreted the work that we created in the studio. It's been very interesting to see how creativity has sprung from so many different perspectives, and the outcomes that have been varied and beautiful. We wanted the artists to have total freedom to respond to the looks, creating bold and thought-provoking conversations with their works. I hope that viewers will be as inspired as we have all been by witnessing these creative processes.'
Engaging in 'a new creative dialogue' has become gloriously integral to Burton's Alexander McQueen. During lockdown, the brand's design team took it upon themselves to document the unique process of creating S/S 21 couture looks throughout the pandemic. As seamstresses turned their gardens into design studios and their kitchen tables into pattern cutting workstations, a make-do-and-mend approach dominated the collection from beginning to end. Then, in December last year, the label travelled to Wales for a community youth project which saw creative director Charlotte James and photographer Clémentine Schneidermann of Ffasiwn Stiwdio team up with the British brand to create a creative educational project which honoured Burton's inspiration for the Alexander McQueen A/W 20 collection - an ode to the rich landscape, crafts, poetry and literature of the country.
Celebrating the interpretations of artists Ann Cathrin November Høibo, Beverly Semmes, Bingyi, Cristina de Middel, Guinevere van Seenus, Hope Gangloff, Marcia Kure, Jackie Nickerson, Jennie Jieun Lee, Judas Companion, Marcela Correa and Marcia Michael, Process will be available in Alexander McQueen stores worldwide, accompanied by a special launch at the Old Bond Street store on 7 June - where the artworks are displayed alongside the McQueen pieces they relate to in a temporary installation designed to showcase the individual approaches and the ways in which art interacts with fashion.