‘I loved the idea of something so huge being so fragile,’ said Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen after her Spring/Summer 2015 show, of the two large-scale Marc Quinn floral sculptures that decorated the set. ‘The same is true when you think of a geisha – they’re so bold, but they’re really fragile. The collection is about their suppression.’
Japanese influences, in icons, kimono cuts and a sakura tile print on silk, satin and leather, came from Burton’s travels under the directorship of the label’s founder – she was there three or four times a year sourcing fabric. That’s where she discovered the Kabuki theatre that inspired the black vinyl facemasks in the show, too.
While the clothes were lighter than what we might think of as ‘classic’ McQueen, they nonetheless had the shoulders, the waists, the etiolated torsos and the intensity (one cape that looked like it was made of beads, was actually thousands of tiny silk-covered pompoms), even though they didn’t, this season, deal in the superstitious necessarily, or the arcane, which so often attracts.
In fact, for all the fragility Burton had in mind, they felt rather more sturdily streetwise. Black silk and leather pieces had strains of the Seventies to them, in kick flares and longer line jackets and trenchcoats. Those trousers had in some instances deep coloured hemlines, in white and the prevailing pink that spattered everything and gave an uneasy femininity to Bowie-esque silhouettes, nipped in high on the waist for spindly emphasis.
There was kimono detailing too – slit sleeves on blazers and shirting that hung below the hand in a way that felt at once classically elegant and currently en vogue. And some of the prettier pinks were held in place on apron dresses by patent leather harness and bondage straps, kept in check, as it were.
Those accents felt particularly progressive on longer dresses, balanced out with midi-lengths and woven hems, to avoid the usual bondage connotations. Finale gowns made from mille feuille tulle flowers bristled and bobbed as models walked. They made you want to reach out and run your fingers across them – the whole collection did – but there was a standoffish feel too. In which case, Burton has perfectly conjured the paradox of the geisha here.