"Metamorphosis" formed the central mode for Autumn/Winter 2018 at Alexander McQueen, and Sarah Burton explored this not only via the butterfly and its evolution – a motif that forms a vital touchstone for the house – but, in parallel, the idea of the many different sides to a woman, her strength, fragility, power and perseverance, and how these interact and flow. Infusing an upbeat cadence and extroverted optimism to the line-up, this was Burton harnessing the transformative mechanisms of the natural world, and applying them to women to armour up in their everyday lives.
Far from abstract or ethereal notions, this theme was assertively encoded into the collection with a focus from the get-go in heritage McQueen tailoring. Strong shoulders, narrow waists and exaggerated hips in tailcoats – deconstructed with panels of red duchesse, or draped at the hem with lace or butterfly-printed silks – a military influence played out, meanwhile, through belted trench coats-cum-dresses, fitted jackets and Royal Horse Guards-inspired blanket-wraps with red jacquard stripes, all teamed with mid-calf heeled riding boots. This was juxtaposed with the more fragile, delicate and languid elements of the collection via fringing, draping, and sheer or lace panels.
Cocooning elements took their cue through quilted down leather jackets, while roll necks came ribbed, slashed and laddered at times, laced together with thin threads. And, toying with the hybridisation theme heavily noted this season, Burton merged several dresses into one and infused tailoring with leather biker elements. More overt butterfly elements fluttered through, whether through the idea of wings wrapping around the bold silhouette of a coat, or more literal in the Glasswing, Tiger Wing and Painted Lady prints splashed through the collection, or through bows and shoulders evoking the spreading of wings. A swarm of ornate Goliath beetles, meanwhile, were embroidered in sequins and glass beads onto tulle; blown-up beetle prints appeared on silk dresses and a standout scarab beetle coat in velvet and silk and cinched with a leather corset belt gave optimum impact. Unleashing a new energy into the season with her "paradise found, not paradise lost," mantra, Burton cast the net wide to expand both the remit and reach of the McQueen world.
Shop: Alexander McQueen