Sarah Burton pays homage to the symbolism of flowers in a romantic new Alexander McQueen exhibition, ‘Roses‘.
Located on the third floor of the fashion house‘s Old Bond Street boutique, the contemporary installation features a selection of pieces inspired by the form and energy of flowers, spanning more than a decade of design – from Alexander McQueen‘s spring/summer 2007 ‘Sarabande’ show to Burton’s own most recent spring/summer 2020 collection.
A celebration and exploration of the brand’s unique craftsmanship, visitors are invited to pick up the label on each mannequin to discover the composition of that particular dress, while pictures of sketches, background research and previous iterations of each design adorn the walls.
Encouraging interaction from visitors, a cutting table features samples of in-progress work, while fabric swatches hang from rails and videos demonstrate the construction of pieces inside the atelier.
“Everything I do is connected to nature in one way or another” – Alexander McQueen
An Alexander McQueen quote greats the visitors as they wander through the paths of creativity which have bloomed into wildflower dresses at McQueen over time.
Reversing the usual order of mystique and VIP exclusivity surrounding luxury fashion, Burton is on an active mission to build open-access resources that promote knowledge-sharing for new generations.
Roses is structured around two Alexander McQueen‘s finale centrepieces: the luscious “Red Rose dress” with its sculptural, whorled petals, and the unforgettable crinolined gown which Alexander McQueen made, assisted by Sarah and a team of florists, and filled with real flowers for his Sarabande collection of spring/summer 2007. The latter will greet visitors as they wend their way up the spiral staircase.
Meanwhile, there are gigantic dresses which look like exploding pink carnations, as though seeded from English country house flower beds. There are tumbling garlands of embroidery, regal roses, and dresses pollinated by bees and inspired by Arts & Crafts tapestries. One was moulded from humble sacking by Alexander McQueen himself – Burton remembers him setting students to embroider over it spontaneously with imaginary wool butterflies and flower fronds.
Eventually, the path, with all its symbolism and research, leads right up to the present, with a photograph of a field of pale blue flax-flowers blooming on a farm in Northern Ireland. Sarah and her team saw it last summer on a research trip, and the spiky-petalled little blue dress it inspired subsequently walked the Paris runway in October.
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