Alexander McQueen F/W 2016
Alexander McQueen F/W 2016

The excitement in the air, and online, was palpable: McQueen has returned to London! After several seasons of showing in Paris, Sarah Burton brought the label’s fall/winter show back home to London and British fans couldn’t have been more happy. The stage was set with immense floor-to-ceiling semi-sheer black drapes and a feeling of somberness late on this Sunday evening. A sense of formality was here that doesn’t exist in most UK shows, which tend to feel rather casual. McQueen has returned! This is going to be wonderful!

For the pop culture fans of McQueen, those who watch year after year with little hope of ever affording or actually wearing anything from the brand, the collection was gorgeous. They oohed and awwed as they tweeted their excitement and pleasure at a collection that dripped with embellishments and draping gold necklaces and bondage-styled belts around the pants. They swooned over the femininity of the chiffon with it’s harness-styled cutouts. They adored the pink pleated skirts laser cut into lace. They giggled at the dresses that looked more like lingerie and questioned whether the penultimate piece was a coat or actually a bedspread because, being so large and quilted, surely it could be either.

Fashion’s insiders, however, took a slightly different approach. They questioned whether Ms. Burton had become bored with McQueen. After all, her name was floated for however brief a moment as a possible successor to Raf Simons at Dior. A year ago, her name wouldn’t have come up at all. And whether one immediately realizes it or not, Burton leans more heavily on the McQueen archive this season than she has previously. While butterflies were a motif that McQueen used often, as was the harness silhouette, the level of embellishment this season felt in some ways more like Mary Katrantzou than McQueen. The lingerie pieces seem out of step with the rest of the collection and by the time we saw the gowns there was some sense the original theme had been abandoned altogether.

So, which view is correct? Both, I think. I see no problem with enjoying the elements that appeal to one’s personal sense of aesthetic. Fashion should be personal and when certain designs speak to an individual there is no right nor wrong to that piece; one buys it if they can and appreciates it if they can’t. Butterflies are a wonderful theme and the embellishments are quite well done throughout the line. The gowns especially, with their sheer and beads and, in one instance, gold lamé, are wonders to behold even if one would never be so rich as to buy one, or dare to actually wear one out in public. Admire the fashion and styles for what makes you happy.

At the same time, we can realize that there is an ebb and flow to staying with a fashion house long term. Some seasons have a lot of energy and creativity behind them, but then some seasons need to rely on the archives in order to fulfill all the obligations a designer has in the modern environment. Be sure, Burton’s family life plays into this as well as the twins are now in their tyrannical threes and Sarah is a very dedicated and hands-on Mommy. Acknowledging the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Ms. Burton is absolutely exhausted isn’t an insult. Even if she is a bit bored, that may well pass as she puts this season behind her and heads into spring/summer 2017.

Either way, this was still an exciting and entertaining presentation, full of the beauty and wonder that comes with simply being Alexander McQueen. The label is back in London and its British fans are hoping it stays forever.

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