Alexander McQueen always had a thing for the sea. His last collection, the acclaimed and celebrated Plato's Atlanis, toyed with ideas of the underwater world and the power of the oceans - he argued that everything evolved out the ocean so, in signature McQueen style, flipped the process around, sending models on a gradual process back into the water, furnishing them with scales and gills as the show went on. With Savage Beauty currently on at the V&A McQueen's past shows and old obsessions are in the air, so perhaps it's unsurprising that Sarah Burton was pondering how ‘the seas acts as a powerful opposite to the land, and is a place where men can make themselves new.’ She’d focused on creatures both above and below the surface of the water - the models themselves were sailors, clad in navy and white uniforms with multiple buttons and nautical stripes, but the clothes told a different story, one of jellyfish and sea monsters through winding tattoo prints. Indeed, it was these graphic elements that stole the show: silhouettes were signature McQueen. Some tweaks offered points of interest - pockets hung deep and low beyond the hem on some of the jackets - but really any drama was the result of theme rather than design.
The anchor motifs that decorated suits came captioned with the word ‘Lost’, conjuring images of men shipwrecked and abandoned at sea. The sailors at today's show inferred less dramatic, fantastical stories - their whites were too white and their navy too crisp to suggest swashbuckling adventures. The tale wasn’t convincing - maybe it was the collection that was ‘lost’. The closing look featured the most ornate tattoo prints - a swirling multi coloured depictions of a dangerous-looking sea being alongside the word ‘Legendary Creatures.’ ‘Legendary’ is part of the McQueen problem - the house is so acclaimed, so steeped in codes and past successes, that it’s hard for Burton to push forward or hash out a fresh identity that feels current. The show notes conjured images of the McQueen man triumphantly traversing the high seas, but really this collection was about treading water - staying afloat, without moving forward.