LONDON, United Kingdom — In a procession of beautiful images, the dreamiest came towards the end: a young woman sleepwalking in gorgeous disarray, wrapped in a pale pink, fur-trimmed eiderdown. Sarah Burton is two weeks away from giving birth to her third child. Maybe it was the reality that situation represents that inspired its opposite, the surreal world of dreams she offered up for McQueen on Sunday night.
Burton was already thinking about Wonderland when she designed her pre-collection, with its focus on a woman who was an obsessive collector, draped in charms she’d gathered: butterflies, eyes, a Faberge egg and tokens of McQueen past, the moths from “Voss”, the lips from “Horn of Plenty”. They reappeared tonight, along with owls, swans, moons and stars, drifting on embroidered tulles and organzas, all of them so richly symbolic.
The effect was often as hallucinatory as a Dali painting and, as in his work, there was a riveting psychology at work, from an opening outfit of fur-collared wool overcoat — sober, restrained, masculine, even with all the embroidery — to those final, outlandishly, gorgeously beaded columns of organza, utterly feminine.
Between those opposites, Burton explored other extremes: tough black leather looks (again, beautifully embroidered) vs. feminine frills, immaculate man-styled tailoring vs. sheer chiffons that would grace a modern-dayMerveilleuse. And one entirely sheer outfit that was ravished by a giant gold-beaded unicorn.
That last flourish underscored the collection’s fairytale quality. But fairytales are rooted in psychological truths. Floating on the post-show euphoria of Burton’s dreamlike journey from restraint to revelation, you could, if you’d been so inclined, have retreated to your library to flick through Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, the best explanation you could ever need for what was really going on with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
Yes, you could wonder at the collection's workmanship, but you could also wonder at the state of mind that was capable of producing such visions. Alexander McQueen had multiple uses for enchantment. Sarah Burton proved yet again how attuned she is to that rare and precious sensibility. Reality is still two weeks away. This was her last night to dream, at least for a while and she made the most of it.