The heir to Alexander McQueen shares her
predecessor’s poetic perfectionism, but she’s defined
her own powerful identity at the forefront of fashion.
BY BRITTANY ADAMS
t was a dress for the ages, the wedding
of the decade. In April 2011, nearly 2
billion people tuned in to witness Kate
Middleton marry Prince William in a
breathtaking gown by Sarah Burton for
the house of Alexander McQueen.
Just before the ceremony began, cameras
caught a glimpse of Burton darting onto the
red carpet at Westminster Abbey to adjust the
duchess’s skirt one last time. Burton had been
laboring over the design for months in utter
secrecy, and the finished creation defied every
expectation, combining couture-level craftsmanship with a bold yet traditional silhouette and
layers of exquisite, hand-cut lace. Every inch
had been painstakingly loved and fussed over
by Burton and the McQueen team, their names
forever inscribed in history books.
Earlier that year, Burton had inherited the
nearly impossible task of taking over the creative
helm at Alexander McQueen after the tragic
suicide of her brilliant boss and mentor, “Lee,”
the renowned British genius and enfant terrible.
After working diligently by his side for nearly
14 years, Burton had become his best friend and
right-hand collaborator. She knew his mind better
than anyone else and was the natural choice as
his successor — even if she would’ve preferred to
remain behind the scenes.
“I definitely considered not taking this job. I
was at such a loss. [McQueen] was such a huge
part of my life, my every day. I could finish his
sentences, but I didn’t know that I could begin
anything, and that terrified me,” Burton said.
It makes sense, then, that Burton’s passion for
design would naturally transition to carrying on
the legacy of the house of McQueen. She worked
tirelessly to continue pursuing her predecessor’s obsessions with technical perfection and
storytelling, while simultaneously introducing a
new softness and femininity to the collections.
“There’ll always be a McQueen woman. She is a
strong woman, powerful, and when she puts a
McQueen jacket on, she feels different,” Burton
said. “It was about how to do that but make it
feel light. I’ve always been part of Lee’s romantic
side; that’s what I love.”
Recent seasons have found Burton drawing
inspiration from nature and her British heritage.
You could imagine her latest Spring 2018 muse
picking flowers in a rambling country garden,
wearing a tattered heirloom ballgown found in
her attic paired with posh, studded wellies. A
previous runway show conjured up visions of
Arthurian legend and pagan goddesses out of
a modern fairy tale.
Burton’s passion for design brings a certain
poeticism to everything she touches, and in many
ways, what differentiates her from her predecessor
serves as her greatest strength. “We don’t take on
battles so small we know we can win,” she said.
“We take on battles so big we dare to dream of
winning them.” [
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