The breathtaking Conciergerie in Paris is a former prison, once host to a condemned Marie Antoinette before she was beheaded. Steeped in history, it also provided the location for Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter show back in 2002, where the models stalked the runway with wolves. And last night, it became the catwalk for Sarah Burton’s AW15 collection for McQueen. Talk about a legacy. A few days before the opening of the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London, this latest offering was a dark, Victorian romance that was, in typically McQueen fashion, irresistibly sinister and compelling in its beauty.
The McQueen catwalks always emanate a strong sense of the dramatic, and this time was no exception. From the wild, piled-up hair to the ghostly pale faces, everything felt sensual, delicate and yet strangely provocative thanks to the feminine silhouettes and exposed details; a sheer gown, or cut-away panels on a shorter dress. Sarah Burton referenced a decaying rose as her inspiration, and that’s exactly what this felt like, particularly on the skirts which morphed into giant blooms themselves. There were stiff, patent coats with powder pink collars, knife-pleat skirts, bustier dresses, layers of lace and second-skin boots both cut-off at the ankle, and stretching up the leg, beneath the hemlines of the dresses.
But, while we’ve come to expect the dramatic, we never expected a McQueen collection to be so wearable. And yet, that’s exactly what this was when you looked beneath the organza surface. Yup, there were elements such as a black polo neck, ruffled frocks and even classic trench coat shapes. The bustier dresses felt fresh and modern- the after-dark alternative to your fail-safe LBDs- while the high neckline on dresses and flared sleeves are currently in abundance on the high street.
We’ve even tracked down some of the best pieces to purchase in order to channel the gothic appeal of McQueen AW15. You may not be trying that hair any time soon, but the Victoriana trend is a high street favourite for spring. And, when it looks this romantic- what’s not to love?
By Hannah Banks-Walker