Alexander McQueen loves a touch of the macabre, the morbid and the foreboding. Indeed, if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse do come calling, they'll know exactly where to go to get a nattily-tailored suit for Judgement Day. With an intricate, Giger-esque pattern of interlocking skulls carpeting the floor and walls of his show space, we knew A/W 2010 was going to be a trademark McQueen trip to the darker reaches. Indeed, those bones - and those interlaced repeat-prints - cropped up in the collection. In fact, almost the entire show was flushed with prints, covering everything from the toes of fabric-panelled biker boots to the high puritan-collared shirts (and, occasionally, enveloping the head and face in jersey balaclavas). It's what's known in fashion as a 'total look', and for the most part McQueen's were totally mesmerising. He has made frequent play on this digital trickery in his women's collections, and it was equally as strong for the boys, rendered hyperreal on the slick surfaces of mohair and silk-wool suits and leather. The prints themselves were derived from knitting, although as ever with McQueen we have to delve much deeper to find out what was going on. That's where the bones come in: he titled the collection 'An Bailitheoir Cnámh', Gaelic for 'The Bone Collector', and on second glance the trademark twists and turns of Celtic knots were discernible in the labyrinthine-patterns of the fabrics. Trust McQueen to take the trend for chunky knits and turn it on its head: instead of knit-one purl-two handiwork, we had flat photographic prints of cableknit, aran and fairisle, endlessly manipulated and reproduced, thrusting craft knitting into the twenty-first century. The inspiration behind these surfaces was, again, the idea of protection and survival in extreme conditions, taken from the centuries-old garb of fishermen and whalers - thus the knit prints morphed into fur, then chainmail, then that skull print, while the two-dimensional cables began to spiral around the figure like an exoskeleton. And, suitably enough for a winter collection, crystallised ice prints and raindrops (more of McQueen's Armageddon climate change obsessions, perhaps) cropped up on jacquard jackets and across vinyl overcoats. When a true knit emerged, as in the hefty grey sweater trimmed with fox, it had the distinct McQueen flavour - a three-dimension skull emerged from the front, and in back an attenuated spine emerged, knitted into the fabric itself. If there's any criticism, it's that perhaps there was too much going on - graphic print clashing with print boggled the eye, only further confused by complex constructions folding flaps around the body in a new swollen shoulderline. The harsh, squared-off shapes to boxy doubleface jackets and stand-away, hunchbacked barrel coats in mixes of PVC and thick, matt leather (sometimes two jackets bulkily layered one on top of the other) are also destined for little life beyond the catwalk. But, at the same time, the colour palette was strong (every shade of stone, through black, to the merest hint of ice blue and silver) and that focus on eye-popping trompe l'oeil left us with some of the slickest, strongest fashion images of the week. What's more, in a season awash with swathes of folksy, crafty Grandad knitting, McQueen pushed it somewhere that looked shockingly different. Kudos to him for his courage.
It's what's known in fashion as a 'total look', and for the most part McQueen's were totally mesmerising.