Sometimes it's not about the destination but the journey. This season, the house of Alexander McQueen went on a pilgrimage. In a testament to the benefits of taking time out to go on a field trip, the design team went to Cornwall. The opening soundtrack was the ringing of tiny bells and the sound of Cornish waves crashing into rocks. Backstage, Sarah Burton said that they had all visited the Barbara Hepworth studio - and their research trip had also taken them to the mysterious Bodmin moor, The Standing Rocks and the magical Tintagel castle. However, it was an unplanned discovery that brought real heart to the collection. Burton explained, 'When we were at the Barbara Hepworth studio, we walked down this little track, and into this field - and there was this beautiful tree with ribbons and trinkets all tied to its branches - where people had come to make wishes. We found out that it is was a Cloutie Tree. Here was a place that was about people’s hopes and dreams. You don’t often have that kind of moment where you feel very emotional and grounded.'
With Camelot Castle and Merlin’s cave also nearby, there was definitely a mystical air of King Arthur’s realm within this collection. The set design saw folded flags line the runway. It looked like a Game of Thrones makeshift camp had been set up by some pagan goddesses who just happened to be passing through. Burton said that the painted silk flags were also 'about evoking a sideways sunset somehow.' A lot of the construction was taken out of the clothing; 'It was more about caressing the body rather than a corset. It was about blankets and there were these medieval samples we used. We liked the jacquards – wishes were embroidered on inside out fabrics - and then there was this idea of the Lady of Shallot.' She showed me how Lee's date of birth was embroidered into one of the dresses. It was lovely to see - and feel - that he was still very much at the heart of this community.
The girls' hair was crinkled as if it had been worn in tiny plaits. Crochet patch-worked blankets were worn on high waisted belted dresses. Some much needed protection and warmth came from black shearling fitted jackets with wool dyed either red or pink. Long antique rose shearling coats also provided further outerwear options. Red woven leathers were interwoven into long knitted dresses as cross-cross stitching - and threads hung free in clutches that were half close to the models’ chests. The 'Wishing Tree' also inspired tweed shot through with bright red twisted yarns. As well as ivory, black and woad blue, the main colour palette included crimson and lichen green.
A medieval vibe can sometimes be in danger of becoming super-race chilly. A couple of slightly shorter models and some racially inclusive casting stopped this looking too Lord Of The Rings 'elvish.' Wide legged trousers and sneakers also added a modern edge.
This collection felt genuinely heartfelt and warm - Sarah Burton looked visibly grounded by the joy of connecting with the land and the feminine divine. 'Women and the earth' and the idea of creative communities was something that Burton found very inspiring this season. She and I had a joyous feminist tête-a-tête about pagan goddess culture. 'Bringing it back to the female!' I exclaimed. 'Absolutely!' was her playful reply.