DDW takes a look at Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2023 lookbook shot by Yorkshire-born Jet Swan, but what trends from this astral-focused future collection can you explore right now?
“I have to keep one step ahead of the game,” said Alexander McQueen, three years before his death. “As a designer you’ve always got to push yourself forward,” he continued, “you’ve always got to keep up with the trends or make your own trends”. Fifteen years and a global pandemic later, Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen now stands galvanised amidst the unrelenting fashion calendar.
The London-based fashion house released two menswear lookbooks within the space of five days at the end of June. While the first shoot presented the anticipated McQueen Autumn Winter 2022 collection, the second introduced Spring Summer 2023 for next year’s sunnier climes. The lookbooks came soon after the SS23 presentations at Milan Men’s Fashion Week, purposefully reorienting Alexander McQueen’s menswear with the international fashion schedule.
Never at ease, the high fashion industry always operates a year in advance. Time is experienced via a unique seasonal calendar and, at breakneck speed, we experience spring and summer compressed into one before flying through Resort, Pre-Fall, Autumn/Winter and back to Spring again. A year’s worth of fashion passes in a moment when Fashion Week after Fashion Week streams through.
Designers and their teams are expected to present consistent creative output – from concept to production, lookbooks to runways, as well as casting and campaigns. “I work best under pressure,” said Alexander McQueen on the process in 2003, “I can design a collection in a day and I always do, ‘cos I’ve always got a load of Italians on my back, moaning that it’s late.”
Burton’s move to reorientate the menswear line with the neverending industry flow was an unconventional choice considering Alexander McQueen is a fashion house famed for rebellion and nonconformity.
Yet after unforeseeable pandemic-related delays left 75 days between the preview of the Autumn Winter collection and the lookbook itself, a sense of normalcy and structure was needed for the newest Alexander McQueen designs to flourish.
McQueen’s back-to-back lookbooks offer a fully realised vision for the next twelve months and, with over a month of Summer 2022 left, there’s still time to revise our vacation looks with next year in mind.
Alexander McQueen presented the delectable William Blake-inspired menswear collection for SS2022, offering a triumph of exquisitely tailored maximalism and artistic devotion. Blake’s archives offered Burton the opportunity for scintillating patterns in pastel tones, alongside theatrical neo-romantic ruffles and genderfluid forms. Burton has kept the Blakian mystic at the forefront of her vision when reapproaching 2023.
While Autumn was destined to be “closer to the earth” – grounded in reassuring references to early McQueen, George Dyer and John Deakin – Spring was set to look back up to the stars. The skyline has become a consistent source of inspiration for Burton. As the pandemic hit, the Alexander McQueen team focused more and more on the view from their studios in East London’s Clerkenwell.
It offered a constant amidst uncertainty and chaos. When the time came for Alexander McQueen’s triumphant runway return after international COVID disruptions, Burton positioned the runway on the roof of the Tobacco Docks Yellow Park in Wapping, East London – only four stops away on the Hammersmith & City line from McQueen HQ. “I am interested in immersing myself in the environment in which we live and work,” said Sarah Burton of her Spring Summer 2022 collection London Skies, “we moved from water – and the mud on the banks of the Thames – to the sky and the ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence that represents”.
“Inspiration,” lists McQueen’s SS23 lookbook, “science and structure, the dissection of tailoring, deconstructed and reconstructed.” It is the kind of paradox we have come to expect from the renegade fashion house. In the tradition of the Savile-Row-trained founder, McQueen’s SS23 tailoring is immaculate with unexpected moments of absurdity found upon closer inspection.
Cut-out is notably making a masculine comeback. Asymmetric collage-like suit structures are cut-up, reformed, then cut up again. What looks like a collar is an inverted suit lapel – a motif repeated throughout. Triangular cutaways at the waist and back of traditionally tailored jackets play with the idea of a feminised male sihlouette.
Throughout, Burton is celebrating a marriage of contradictions wherein patched denim bombers and trousers are presented in a soft romantic lilac, and cottage-core lambswool knit is slashed along the shoulders and waistline. The pastel colours of the season are omnipresent and defined in the availability of the Spirit Runner in pale lilac and powder blue, as well as white and black and white leather. The trend-focused Square Bow bag is similarly offered in subdued dove grey leather and black, but also available in a louder fuschia tone for playful accessorising.
Shoulder harnesses are also making a strong comeback, with subtle hints of kink presented through crystal harness-style embroidery and the classic leather accessory. Such moments of celestial influence define the collection and reoccur throughout, as the abundance of astral-styled crystals brings a sense of excess and 1920s glamour to the capes and suits they adorn.
The theme extends to jewellery which, as DDW has highlighted is a McQueen speciality. SS23 proves to only further raise the bar and, until the collection is on sale, accessorising will be the easiest moment to emulate. Ear cuffs, rings and eyelet ear hoops meet chain chokers and bracelets with cosmic detailed ear pieces. Wearers are offered a step beyond the popular industrial look with romantic touches of crystal. Any prized pieces of antique silver metal will fit the look perfectly, alongside black and white lacquered jewellery.
Continuing the artistic presence of Blake last year, Charles Arnoldi’s ‘Double Diamond’ became Burton’s pattern of choice for the season. Cubist and impressionist sensibilities reminiscent of a waking sky or a stormy day are portrayed across the entire canvas of the body in colour palettes both monochromatic and reminiscent of the evening Summer glow.
In contrast to the predominance of cigarette trousers, oversized forms remain prevalent on the athleisure side and in the final phase of crystal-adorned pieces. The finale look of the collection is an oversized black wool twill coat that appears at first glance akin to an opera cape. A firm nod to the night sky that lies omnipresent above our heads, the pitch-dark canvas explodes with silver sequin and the collection’s signature astral embroidery.
McQueen Spring Summer 2023 is an exploration of the infinite cosmos across the malleable human form. Moving with the spiritually humanist energy of the brand’s last icon, William Blake, the team at McQueen is pointing to the sky in awe, begging you to take notice of what we so often take for granted.
If you can’t find time to incorporate McQueen’s future styles into your wardrobe for the last few months of summer, Burton’s immaculate vision of the night sky should serve as a reminder for you to at least take some time to yourself. Stare at the stars. Catch the sunrise.