Love it or hate it, Alexander McQueen's menswear made a statement. Its unique point of view each season won it hardcore fans - the kind who would fight for a beaded slipper, moulded leather breastplate or skyward-pointing lapel interfaced to within an inch of its life. Sarah Burton, Lee McQueen's able-handed successor, has made it her business to knock the stuffing out of some of those most histrionic diversions in the wardrobe of the McQueen male. Just as she's softened the McQueen woman, she softened up the man too.
For Spring 2012, the message, it seems, was 'Soft Rock', taking inspiration from the style of sixties British musicians. And, just as that name implies, there was something middle-of-the-road about this collection - bar fluttering hippie hair and a few pukka shells strung around the necks and embedded in belts, Burton's offering was business as usual, trousers and jackets straight-cut in stripes and checks, a few dandyish scarves knotted at the neck and plenty of those hyper-embellished McQueen jackets that always crop up in their menswear shows (lurex, jacquards and sequin-encrustations this time around).
Silky blousons were vaguely sporty, these tartans and stripes were vaguely op-art, the feeling was vaguely sixties. Maybe the word for this collection was just 'vague', rifling through a few rails of standard menswear references while resolutely refusing to make a decision on where to stand. Is the McQueen man a peacock or a wallflower? Sports or suits? It felt as if this collection tried to throw everything at you and see what would stick. Certainly, what possible trajectory the McQueen man could go on that would necessitate running the wardrobe gamut of shiny sateen sportswear, bandbox riviera matelots and dodgy jet-beaded tuxedo jackets remained ill-defined. As did that elusive McQueen man.
Individual pieces did stand-out: a swaggering cream trench belling out in back, a few glittering pieces of silver lame, and the sharp-shouldered jacket licked with jacquard flames. It perhaps says something about our perceptions of McQueen - and about today's saturated fashion market in general - that the extrovert pieces undoubtedly worked best. These were the ones you could imagine bearing no label but 'Alexander McQueen.' The issue with the rest being that if, god forbid, that snippet of fabric at the back of the neck were scissored out in some cataclysmic dry-cleaning malfunction, you'd have worryingly little indication as to whence these ho-hum garments originated.