Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Tina Chang / The National
Tina Chang / The National

Katie Trotter: Alexander McQueen's legacy lives on

The legacy of Alexander McQueen lives on, says M's fashion director, Katie Trotter.

This has been a difficult year for the fashion industry. There was the closure of Christian Lacroix, the deaths of models Tom Nicon and Daul Kim and - probably the most shocking of all - the loss of Alexander McQueen. People love to ridicule designers and the pomp that surrounds fashion, but no one who ever attended a McQueen show could ever again believe that fashion is unimportant. His clothes had the ability to divide a crowd in the manner of Marmite because of their, at times, shocking aesthetics. Yet his technical genius, eclectic choices and admirable eccentricity were undeniable.

His sudden death in February at 40 left the future of the fashion house in doubt. Following in his footsteps was never going to be easy. This week, Sarah Burton, McQueen's right-hand woman for the past 15 years(the only hire he ever made from an internship), revealed her first collection for the label since becoming creative director. I used to work for Burton, and when I heard she was taking over, my first thought was, "If anyone can continue his legacy, she can". But even though she worked with McQueen for so many years, trying to fill his shoes is a huge and brave move that could mean a career setback.

The press has been hungry to watch her fall and McQueen's loyal fans made it clear it was inappropriate to launch a collection while the wounds from his untimely death were still so raw. But last week in Paris she proved them wrong, or at least appeased them for now, with a collection that put the label exactly where it needs to be - still McQueen but a new, softer version. While she may have lacked the angst and raw aggression that was unmistakably McQueen, Burton did the perfect job of continuing to deliver some wonderfully eclectic showpieces (the house speciality) - including a structured dress made from hand-made, painted, feather butterflies, and another made from leather that resembled falling ivy leaves - while managing to put her own feminine and ethereal stamp on things. The general feeling of the collection, whose theme was decay, followed the standard McQueen silhouette - the strong shoulder, the exaggerated hips and the sheer volume - but there was a transition towards moving McQueen's original vision into something more commercially viable.

Burton achieved something outstanding with her first collection. There is no doubt she has given herself a safe benchmark from which to develop, and perhaps even give herself a name under the cloud of McQueen that will of course remain for some time to come. And as the models lined up for the finale to a soundtrack of The Jackson 5's I'll Be There, I thought: You know what? You just might be.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National