Sensuous, mysterious and uncompromising, the Alexander McQueen woman this season is a darkly romantic muse. Her enchanted childhood was wildly unconventional. Moving between an un-tamed rural landscape steeped in fairytale tradition and legend and the glitter and gleam of city life, she takes inspiration from the contrasts between both. Her wardrobe is a reflection of that, drawing on the paradox between tailored elegance and decadent glamour; between embroidered military pea coats, capes, sartorial double-breasted pinstripes and sleek tuxedo dressing and fine lace, overblown, ruffled silks and liquid gowns dipped in metallic sequins. There are shades of the graceful arabesques and delicately interlacing forms seen in the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley here and of the decorative, languid beauty of the British Art Nouveau style more broadly. This was a new start: a movement characterised by freedom of expression, open-mindedness and creativity, informed in particular by nature – the eroticism of the human body and the curved lines of plants and flowers.
Intricately hand-drawn silk prints and hand-embroidered and painted embellishments are inspired by the British Art Nouveau style and the natural world. Delicate tendrils, swooping, swirling lines, flowers, leaves, animals and birds all feature. A Paisley motif references both Connemara shawls and Beardsley’s ink drawings: it is woven and embroidered across everything from fluid lace dresses to corseted overcoats. In the case of the latter, one double-collared coat in particular is over-printed with black ink – masked – leaving only a Paisley curve around the collar, embroidered pockets and hem. No two versions of this piece are the same.
A zebra print wool silk velvet jacquard is mirrored and placed on a cocoon coat. Sharp military tailoring is deconstructed. Curvaceous, strong-shouldered trompe l’oeil wool silk tuxedo jackets are draped and pieced with lace and antique silk taffeta. Finely ruffled and pleated knitted dresses with sheer panelled skirts are engineered with ribbing or have cut away Art Nouveau bodices. They are worn with supple studded leather harnesses. Multi-coloured ruffled knitted and silk babydoll dresses are shot through with metal fil coupé embroideries or patterned with beguiling floral nudes. Perfecto jackets are layered over slender gowns, again cut away at the shoulders and torso, tenderly tracing the lines of the body. Jet embroidered harnesses curve over draped lace. Exotic iris corsages are scattered across silk creponne sheer evening gowns dipped in sequins.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alexander McQueen]