The Craftsmanship of Alexander McQueen

British Fashion Council

Discover the innovative and uncompromising craftsmanship behind the house of Alexander McQueen.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
Innovative, emotional, uncompromising. Welcome to the house of Alexander McQueen. Since its founding in 1992 by Lee Alexander McQueen, the company has grown to become one of the most important and respected fashion brands in the world. Known for the emotional power and raw energy of its shows and a profound respect for craftsmanship, Alexander McQueen is a standard bearer for British fashion. Today, under the direction of Sarah Burton, the brand combines an in-depth knowledge of British tailoring with a unique creativity that sets Alexander McQueen apart.

HISTORY

1969 - Lee Alexander McQueen is born in London

1992 - Lee Alexander McQueen earns a Master's Degree at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design with a collection named 'Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims'

1993 - Lee Alexander McQueen shows his first collection in London titled 'Taxi Driver'. He introduces the 'bumster' which becomes a big trend.

1996 - Lee Alexander McQueen McQueen receives the first of four British Fashion Awards for British Designer of the Year. Sarah Burton joins the company as Designer Assistant

1996 to 2000 - Lee Alexander McQueen is Head Designer at Givenchy

2000 - Sarah Burton is named Head of Design for womenswear

2003 - The iconic skull scarf is launched with the Spring/Summer 2003 runway show titled 'Irere'

2004 - Alexander McQueen Menswear is launched

2007 - The iconic Britannia skull box clutch is launched

2009 - Alexander McQueen gives his last bow in Paris before his untimely death on 11 February 2010

2010 - Lee Alexander McQueen's last collection is presented in Paris to a small group of people. McQueen's long standing right hand Sarah Burton is appointed Creative Director for all lines.

2011 - Sarah Burton designs the wedding dress for HRH the Duchess of Cambridge and wins Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards

2012 - Sarah Burton receives an OBE and the Savile Row menswear flagship store opens in London

2015 - The 'Savage Beauty' retrospective opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and is an instant sell-out

Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2016 Campaign photographed & filmed by Jamie Hawkesworth.

HERITAGE

Alexander McQueen is known for an emotional power and raw energy, as well as its romantic but determinedly contemporary nature.

Integral to the McQueen aesthetic is the juxtaposition between contrasting elements: fragility and strength, tradition and modernity, fluidity and severity. An openly emotional and even passionate viewpoint is realised with a profound respect for artisanal techniques and craftsmanship.

SARAH BURTON, OBE

Sarah Burton grew up and was educated in Manchester before moving to London to study fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design. On the recommendation of a tutor, Burton completed a placement year with Alexander McQueen in 1996, rejoining the company following her graduation a year later.

In 2000, Burton was made Head of Design for womenswear at Alexander McQueen, and in May 2010, promoted to Creative Director of the entire Alexander McQueen brand, having worked alongside Lee Alexander McQueen for more than 14 years. In April 2011, she received global recognition as the designer of the wedding dress for HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, on the occasion of her marriage to HRH Prince William.

Since her appointment as the brand’s Creative Director, Burton has produced critically acclaimed collections with a focus on handcraft, establishing herself as a highly accomplished designer with artisanal and technical expertise.

Burton was recipient of the Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards in November 2011 and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in April 2012. She was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to the British fashion industry on 16 June 2012.

Today, Burton supervises the creative direction and development of all the brand’s collections: women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and accessories, as well as the brand’s contemporary line McQ.

THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

Join a virtual reality tour of five iconic pieces by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Sarah Mower, the Chief Critic of Vogue.com, narrates this tour showing Alexander McQueen's craftsmanship and creativity.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017 LOOK 44

This dress was one of the final looks in the Spring/Summer 2017 show. The collection was inspired by the Shetland Islands and the wild, mythical nature of their coastline. This black tulle dress depicts a shipwreck engulfed by the waves.

The ship itself was created using two and three millimetre beads, bugle beads, micro black glass beads, black hammered bullion and black metallic thread.

Around 500,000 sequins were then used to recreate the waves with facetted small silver glass beads outlining each one.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017 LOOK 44

Hammered silver bullion recreates the splashes. Hanging beaded fringes were placed between the flat wave designs and silk tulle ruffles to create a smooth transition.

Thirty metres of embroidered silk ruffles and thirty metres of silk tulle then capture the movement of waves, each one gathered and steamed to give a wave effect.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017, LOOK 42

This dress depicts an island scene with Shetland sea birds and coastal plants from cornflowers to lakeshore bulrushes, rock roses, cormorants and puffins. The dress has an almost etched effect which was achieved through a large number of materials and techniques: black bullion embroidery, metal thread embroidery, shiny micro ribbon work, round glass beads, faceted glass beads, sequins and bugle beads.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017, LOOK 42

This dress depicts an island scene with Shetland sea birds and coastal plants from cornflowers to lakeshore bulrushes, rock roses, cormorants and puffins. The dress has an almost etched effect which was achieved through a large number of materials and techniques: black bullion embroidery, metal thread embroidery, shiny micro ribbon work, round glass beads, faceted glass beads, sequins and bugle beads.

AUTUMN/WINTER 2016, LOOK 27

This black leather plonge dress has boning details within the upper body and an accentuated hip silhouette. The dress was part of the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection inspired by a surreal and ethereal night time world. Here intoxicating white flowers of tuberose,'Queen of the Night,' and jasmine, which bloom only after dark are painted onto leather entirely by hand in chiaroscuro shades of shadow and light.

AUTUMN/WINTER 2016, LOOK 27

This black leather plonge dress has boning details within the upper body and an accentuated hip silhouette. The dress was part of the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection inspired by a surreal and ethereal night time world. Here intoxicating white flowers of tuberose,'Queen of the Night,' and jasmine, which bloom only after dark are painted onto leather entirely by hand in chiaroscuro shades of shadow and light.

Look 27, designed by Sarah Burton, on the catwalk in Paris during the Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2016 presentation.

SPRING/SUMMER 2016, LOOK 28

This frock coat is based on an antique Victorian jacket, cut to elongate and accentuate an hourglass silhouette. The coat was reworked and modernised using Japanese denim, aged with a vintage wash and frayed edges which accentuate the form and cut of the split waist seaming.

The floral embroidery is based on ‘Spitalfields’ silk, created by the Huguenots who arrived in London as religious refugees in the late seventeenth century. They brought with them their skill in weaving and a love of naturalistic floral designs inspired by “The Line of Beauty” philosophy. The coat is embellished with hand-dyed sequins, multi-coloured glass beads and micro glass bugle beads over dyed jacquard patches. You will see three-dimensional beaded techniques, raised satin stitch, bullion, French knots and faceted glass beads.

Detail of a Spitalfields Silk Coat from 1734. This men's coat is made from khaki silk, brocaded with coloured silk in a floral pattern. The coat was woven in Spitalfields by Huguenot religious refugees and is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection.

SPRING/SUMMER 2016, LOOK 39

This dress was inspired by armour. The top is a lace patchwork using lace and guipure while the skirt is created with hand-stitched ostrich feather with wet-look effect. A hand-stitched panel of dyed goose feathers has been inserted between the top and the skirt.

SPRING/SUMMER 2016, LOOK 39

This dress was inspired by armour. The top is a lace patchwork using lace and guipure while the skirt is created with hand-stitched ostrich feather with wet-look effect. A hand-stitched panel of dyed goose feathers has been inserted between the top and the skirt.

Look 39, designed by Sarah Burton, on the catwalk in Paris during the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2016 presentation.

FABRIC ARCHIVE
Simply click on each fabric to zoom in and move around some of the most intricate and innovative Alexander McQueen pieces.

Hand-dyed goose feathers hand-stitched to create an engineered moth wing design.

Click to zoom

Heraldic 3-D fabric embroidery with organza feathers organically growing from the skirt to a jacquard top.

Click to zoom

3-D chiffon embroidery with bullion and thread details and chiffon raw cut fringes.

Click to zoom

Patent lazer-cut leather creating a spine and rib cage design on a lace applique engineered placement.

Click to zoom

Delicate jellyfish and anemones were engineer printed onto hand-frayed silk organza ruffles to create this dress for SS12.

Disheveled satin-stitch roses with silk thread fringes.

Click to zoom

A silk faille 'fil coupe’ Rose Floral jacquard woven from spun silk, boucle wool, mohair and silk ribbons in palest pink. The fil coupe weaving technique which creates intricate structures and patterns on light weight grounds, was reversed to reveal the shredded ribbons and yarns on the surface of the fabric, creating delicate fringes and texture around the rose motifs.The technique also created a quilted, dishevelled effect in the jacquard rose design, while the ground remained a crisp silk faille.

Click to zoom

Fading, dishevelled roses were the inspiration for this exquisite rose petal print. Exploded, enlarged petals in faded degrade hues of nude and rose, were engineer printed in circular patterns to create a distressed three dimensional "rose” dress. Delicately printed on silk organza, the the edges of the fabric were then hand frayed to enhance the romantic, peeling effect.

Click to zoom

The historical weaving tradition of the Huguenots of Spitalfields inspired this delicate silk jacquard dress. Engineered perfectly to fit the pattern of the dress, the pastoral floral design was woven in a washed silk taffeta fil coupe jacquard in the colourful naturalistic hues of meadow flowers. The floral design followed the sinuous, curving “Lines of Beauty”, the design philosophy of the Spitalfield weavers of the 17th century.

Click to zoom

Knitted and fringed floral brocade design with contrasting textured elements on a fine silk base.

Click to zoom

A cameo shaded French silk lace dress of delicate rose patterns, hand dyed and shredded, layered in cascading distressed ruffles and adorned with hundreds of lace covered buttons.

Click to zoom

Engineered panels of super fine silk lace knit, with fluid undulating viscose ruffles.

Click to zoom

A silk organza jacquard of ‘Nocturnal Obsessions”is woven with a ‘fil coupe’ technique. Shades of moonlight silk threads glide over sheer organza and are intricately woven in to create diaphanous patterns of butterflies, night blooming florals, surrealist eyes, moon, stars and pearls. The floating silk threads are then cut away, allowing the delicate motifs to ‘float’ over the transparent organza.

Click to zoom

Surreal diamante embroidery on tulle.

Click to zoom

Thread embroidery flowers with marabou trim.

Click to zoom

Silver moon embroidery with sequins, glass beads, and stones.

Click to zoom

Heraldic chain embroidery with silver metallic sequins and free hanging silver chains.

Click to zoom

Soft glove leather was embroidered before construction with tonal disheveled floral motifs. Threads where not cut between each motif which has created paths of threads between them. After the panels where embroidered the garment was fully constructed before the whole piece was garment washed. The effect is a shrunken washed look.

Click to zoom

SPRING/SUMMER 2017: 'THE ISLANDS'

INSPIRATION FOR SPRING/SUMMER 2017

The wild and magical coastal landscape of the Shetland Islands was the origin of this collection. Their natural beauty has inspired local artisans who have passed their skills down through generations of women for centuries.

In particular, gossamer fine Shetland Lace, worn by crofters’ daughters and royalty alike, woven with indigenous flora and fauna – wild heather, clover, poppies and roses; sea birds and underwater creatures both real and mythical – is re-imagined.

The colourful interiors of solitary, deserted houses, faded over time and glimpsed through windows, fishing huts, sea walls, shipwrecks, lost treasure, Celtic paisley and the stoles and shawls sported by Scottish nobility are also referenced.

Hand-sewn, patched Taatit rugs, traditionally given as wedding gifts, form the backbone of the story. When families are joined in wedlock, two of these are sewn together to become one precious symbol of unity and love.

A view from the Shetland Islands, the inspiration for the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2017 Collectiony.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017, LOOK 23

The collection features 3-D floral dresses with hand-embroidered wild island flowers.

A detail of the 3-D floral dress shows satin stitch embroidery and 3-D fabric Shetland flowers; all of which were carefully collected and copied after the Alexander McQueen team visited the Scottish islands.

3-D hand-dyed fabric flowers.

SPRING/SUMMER 2017, LOOK 37

The Islands' collection also includes this crochet dress which was inspired by hanging fisherman’s nets.

Highly detailed machine knitted lace in a fine silk, constructed of fashioned panelling.

The finale to the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2017 collection. Model Jessie Bloemendaal wears Look 45 designed by Sarah Burton.

THE FINALE DRESS FROM THE SPRING/SUMMER 2017 SHOW
This hand-embroidered ivory dress was the final look in the Spring/Summer 2017 show. The wild and magical coastal landscapes of the Shetland Islands were the origin of this collection and this shredded tulle dress depicts a scene of crashing waves.

The waves are depicted using around 480,000 two to three millimetre sequins while facetted small silver glass beads give them their outline. Hanging beaded fringes are placed between this flat wave design and the three-dimensional ruffles which capture the movement of waves, creating a smooth transition between the two. Each beaded fringe is made up of silver glass faceted beads and long silver feather sequins giving the idea of sea spray.

The outline of the wave was created using two and three millimetre beads, bugle beads, glass beads and silver metallic thread. Hammered silver bullion recreates the splashes. Hanging beaded fringes were placed between the flat wave designs and silk tulle ruffles to create a smooth transition.

The ruffles are created using over sixty metres of embroidered silk tulle, designed to recreate the movement of the sea. These embroidered silk tulle ruffles are gathered and steamed to give a pleated effect and then distressed by-hand. A further forty-five metres of silk tulle were then added to the dress to complete the splash of a pounding wave.

Please zoom into explore every detail of the front of the beautiful finale dress, Look 45, from Alexander McQueen's Spring / Summer collection.

Please zoom into explore every detail of the back of the beautiful finale dress, Look 45, from Alexander McQueen's Spring / Summer collection.

The fragility and romance was offset by the handicraft and hardiness. They were, indeed, stronger together.
Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic, The New York Times

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Alexander McQueen. All rights belong to Alexander McQueen unless otherwise specifically stated. All models and photographers have been credited where known.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile