From Kitchen Table To Runway: The Process Behind Alexander McQueen's S/S 21 Pre-Collection Couture Looks

by Christina Donoghue on 26 January 2021

From hand-dyeing techniques in the design team's gardens to pattern cutting at kitchen tables; discover the design process behind the Alexander McQueen couture looks from their S/S 21 pre-collection.

From hand-dyeing techniques in the design team's gardens to pattern cutting at kitchen tables; discover the design process behind the Alexander McQueen couture looks from their S/S 21 pre-collection.

The late designer Alexander McQueen once famously said 'fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment,' and nothing renders more of an escapism than the exclusive world of haute couture. It can take up to 240 hours to make one couture gown alone (that's ten whole days of intensive sewing and embroidering) yet the final creations represent more than just many hours of work; they represent a labour of love from the designer to the wearer. In a nutshell, couture is a showcase of craftsmanship and creative grandeur, giving way to the possibilities dreamt up of what can be achieved by the industry's leading designers and artisans. It's rare we ever see designers and their studio teams at work day and night around the clock, for the world of couture is an elusive one, to say the least. For the film buffs out there, one can only imagine it's similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread - a film that portrays the life and dedication of a couturier in 50s London, (a must-watch if you haven't seen.) With this in mind, the SHOWstudio team have been granted a sneak peak behind the making of the couture looks that were included in the house's S/S 21 pre-collection.

SHOWstudio has always supported the practice of craftsmanship by unveiling the secrets behind the creative process, helping people to understand what truly goes on behind the scenes when it comes to fashion and the arts. Craftsmanship is held at the forefront of couture and is what people value most; every bead is hand-stitched, every stitch is sewn with a purpose. It's no doubt that a colossal amount of work (and love) goes into creating a couture gown, as many seamstresses work tiresomely to bring a designer's sketch (and fantasies) to life. Today, designers are increasingly faced with imminent pressures of constant deadlines and are expected to be bursting with creativity at the drop of a hat at all times. The age of corona, presents a newly added challenge on top of the already demanding expectations that fashion houses face; to make a collection that's just as beautiful, just as romantic, with the same amount of love poured into the clothes, while the individual members of a team are miles apart from each other. This is exactly how the couture looks that made up the Alexander McQueen S/S 21 pre-collection were conceived, and despite all the challenges faced along the way, the final creations are just as enchanting and as beautiful as you'd expect.

For this collection, the team of Alexander McQueen adopted a free-spirited, make-do-and-mend approach. Fabrics were cut by hand at kitchen tables and dip-dyed in gardens; a variety of pink and red hues dominate the collection's colour palette. While the silhouettes remain highly feminine, the house adopted a masculine-inspired tailoring approach featuring sweetheart necklines and overblown skirts.

Giving you an exclusive insight into the world behind Alexander McQueen; SHOWstudio unveils the creative process behind couture looks 26 to 29, so you can be taken on a journey by the design team, witnessing the behind-the-scenes secrets of the S/S 21 pre-collection.

LOOK 26:

Look 26 is an off-the-shoulder look with a hand-knotted bodice, pleated and sewn onto the corset, paired with a tiered skirt in washed silk organza, dip-dyed in Albion pink and black. While the toile was created and worked on in the Alexander McQueen design team's homes, the dip-dyeing experiments also took place from the team's very own gardens and kitchens.

LOOK 27:

Look 27 is a double-layered tuxedo jacket suit with matching cigarette trousers created from a black wool-silk blend with a wrapped bow peplum in Albion pink. This look was inspired by a 1950s couture bow that was subsequently reimagined and spliced into a tuxedo jacket. Playing with proportions, a member of the team created several different calico toiles of the bow before the final version was chosen.

LOOK 28:

Look 28 is the most extravagant of the collection; an oyster ruffle dress with a high neck and scalloped back in washed organza dip-dyed in the collection's signature Albion pink and black tones. Initially designed in lace, the look evolved into an oyster ruffled dress, created in layers of organza. The piece, made from recycled materials sourced from dead fabric stock, creates a degradé effect, with every circle of organza cut by hand and, stitched in organic waving lines following the ruffles.

LOOK 29:

Look 29 is an asymmetric floor-length dress featuring a voluminous, full-bodied skirt in washed calico silk organza. The embroidered pattern was taken from the notebook drawings of the Alexander McQueen design studio teams during lockdown. As an ode to working from home, Sarah Burton and the team chose to feature all the sketches and designs that had been created by the team, hoping to tell the story of a tight-knit community that's still been able to work together (virtually) despite being apart (physically.)

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