If I've hit the snooze button on posting, I promise there is good reason but I was waiting for something mammoth and this was exactly that. Hopefully some of you tuned in to the stream of McQ's show last night but I know how easy it is to forget to time into a live stream so I'm hoping that you'll relish in the palpitating moments backstage before, what I thought was one of the most memorable shows I've seen in a LONG time. The excacerbated excited tingling may have been caused by the sheer opportunity that I got to go backstage in what was a fairly tight and closed set. Still, given that one of the first things that I saw when I walked in backstage was Kristen McMenamy stalking around demi-dressed in a robe and a skintight tulle top with velvet appliqued leaves, with an exaggerated coil of hair atop her head, I think exclamation mark laden excitement is well and truly called for.
Let's put this McQ show into context first and foremost. It is the first time Alexander McQueen's diffusion line McQ has ever had a show. It's been about ten years since Alexander McQueen the brand has staged any sort of show in London. McQ the diffusion line, launched back in 2006 has been a dritfting label of the uber casual and denim-based offerings with a few teensy tiny hints to McQueen's house codes. Sarah Burton has now taken hold of the McQ ship to steer it into a new era, where the collection would slide up the scale, closer to the mainline and a four storey McQ store set to open in London will galvanise that shift.
People on the livestream, who thought they were tuning into a proper Alexander McQueen show would be forgiven for thinking this was slightly minimal for a mainline McQueen show, when in fact this was actually a stellar McQ collection. I was well and truly floored when I saw the clothes on the rack and the collection pretty much had me when I saw McMenamy, looking hauntingly beautiful from very angle.
The final three looks with their nipped in waists and hard-edged delicacy were already a million steps up from what McQ had offered previously. If the main Alexander McQueen is about as close to haute couture as can be expected in a ready to wear line, then McQ surely had to follow suit to present itself as a collection that takes those fantastical elements and tone them down for the reality of daily wear. There wasn't a checked shirt or parka jacket in sight and yet the distinction between the two lines is testament to how intricate and artisinal Sarah Burton's work is for the mainline. McQ's clothes still looked exquisitely made but neither were they the magnificent feats of intense labour that Burton pours into say a ruffled dress made up of hundreds of circular hand massaged chiffon. For the new customer that has recently been made aware of Alexander McQueen as a brand, due to last year's festivities, McQ will present itself as a better opportunity to be within touching distance of "proper" McQueen.
Let's talk about THAT hair first. I'm not the best at covering beauty and hair backstage and I was definitely trying to pick up tips from the hordes hair and beauty journos. Overhearing their convo with Guido Palau, who created this incredible feat of hair manipulation, I gleaned that the look was supposed to be an exaggerated 1940s hair roll, made up of a giant hair doughnut with the model's real hair pulled up over it, which looked like a painful process. I did want to tap Guido's shoulder and say "Hey, you remember me? You didn't want to do my hair on that Gap Christmas ad campaign because you said it looked fine as it was and I had sad panda face all day because of that." That would be incredibly sad and dorky though so I resisted the temptation.
The boots were also an arduous process. Thigh high with dozens of eyelets, the lacing up took about three people per model to complete. They are incidentally the first pair of thigh highs that I've wanted in a long time, which I think has something to do with the shine of the leather and the brogue-like punched detailing.
When they practised the finale, which hopefully you'll get to see in its mighty glory once McQ put up the full video, I was pretty hysterical. That's when I started manically tweeting "Please, guys. Just watch this."
It was really hard not to overdose on shots of McMenamy and her closing look.
As for the rest of the collection, it ran the gamut from the pragmatic and slick military moss green coats and jackets to the fantasy of a tutu dress embroidered with flowers. Everything was waisted and tightened to the proportions that one expects from McQueen. The Black Watch tartan was more than a nod to the notorious Highland Rape collection and has actually featured in previous McQ collections but looks more polished here as a bustier dress over a lace top or as a dramatic flared out frock coat. The menswear was perhaps slightly erring on the more casual side when compared with the womenswear but that didn't lessen the direction of the show which was WWII military in spirit to begin with and then darkened into a tangible woodland fantasy where burgandy velvet devoré with leaf motifs, a rainbow cornucopia of fabric flowers and cut silk and knots of silk made to look like moss growing on a rock all take over.
The finale, as some of you will have seen, featured McMenamy emerging on to the dried leaf covered catwalk and standing there, illuminated like a Titania-esque statue with leaves falling from above. She then looks up bewildered and lost and finds nestled under the leaves, a rope that guides her to a dramatic reveal of a woodland scene and into a curious looking hut.
Then there's an unexpected blaring of techno from this hidden club, to which we were all invited in to (provided you can elbow your way in through the throng of guests) afterwards for a drink or two with McMenamy revelling in all the photo snapping and looking like she owned this joint called the Core Club. According to the receipts plastered all over the walls, there are a ton of lifetime members, perhaps an allusion to the lifelong dedicated fans of Alexander McQueen, both brand and person. That's a Core Club that you can happily sign me up to.