It's true that no one quite encapsulated Englishness in fashion like Alexander McQueen. As a person, and as a designer, he summed up all the oddities and contradictions that make up British manhood: black humour, sarcasm, wit, respect for tradition. More than ever, for the McQueen brand, it's time to celebrate this Britishness - Savage Beauty, the exhibition that showed how dearly the public identify with the late Lee McQueen's working by smashing attendance expectations is coming to London, the label's home. So it's no wonder then that national pride was on Sarah Burton's mind. In particular, she was thinking about historical masculinity and the plight of our nation's fallen heroes. As a Brit it would have been impossible not to have that in your head this year after Paul Cummins and Tom Piper's 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London took the world's breath away.
Honour. Truth. Valour. These words decorated tailoring in striking graphic panels. Wording and logos are old news on the London runways; we're used to seeing anodyne platitudes and brand names plastered all over garments. This both bowed to, and subverted the trend; these aren’t commercial words or fun flippant puns, but elements of the language that litters the emotive war poetry of that period. They're words with depth and gravitas, so there's a certain irony to the fact next season's shows will be littered with young street style enthusiasts gossiping about their seating positions while sporting a jacket reading 'honour'. McQueen loved a cruel joke so maybe this was a subtle attempt to point out how those good qualities are so often missing in fashion folk. Unlikely, but maybe.
The interest in the great war extended to how Burton decorated her tailoring: a poppy motif, rendered in metallic hues crept up the back of her jackets. Similarly, there were military details on suits, such a panels resembling cross straps. Together, it smacked of a historical brand of masculinity - of dandies, crisp shirts and razor sharp tailoring.
This wasn't a collection that shocked or surprised, but with such a theme maybe that wasn’t appropriate. It had a quiet authority, a silent nobleness that demanded respect.