McQueen reigns again on London catwalk as label returns home in style

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Two years after the designer's death, Sarah Burton's McQ makes its runway debut. Fashion Editor Susannah Frankel reports

It is more than a decade since the Alexander McQueen name was a
presence at London Fashion Week. Last night, Sarah Burton, that
company's creative director since its founder's death a little over
two years ago now, showed the McQueen second line, McQ in the
British capital.

On a catwalk strewn with fallen leaves, models, male and female, came out in military great coats, Black Watch tartans, quilted velvet and tulle scattered with brightly coloured blooms. McQ was in launched in 2006 but this was its runway debut. The Alexander McQueen main line will be shown in Paris in two weeks.

McQueen being McQueen, however, while the collection was not such a grand affair as its rarefied big sister, its presentation was never going to be anything less than spectacular.

With that in mind, the show closed with American supermodel Kristen McMenamy entering an absinthe hut in a never-ending forest that appeared as if by magic and dressed, conversely, from head-to-toe in white, her wasp-waisted overblown ballerina gown scattered with velvet foliage.

If London remains predominantly famous for its fledgling names, the exception that proves the rule is Burberry, a globally recognised international brand with the money and power behind it to match.

Burberry Prorsum has been showcased in the British capital since 2008 (prior to that the show was in Milan) and it gives London Fashion Week an ultra-glossy and unusually corporate international lift.

Still, the label is quintessentially British at heart as could be seen in yesterday's procession of outerwear. Blanket coats, bombers, waxed jackets and of course the label's famous trench coat, this time cut in a gabardine and tweed mix, remain the core of its business.

Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, understands this sensibility well. More typically English references came in the form of flared riding skirts, voluminous dress shirts borrowed from men, animal print T-shirts, and for the country-house soiree, fringed dresses and quilted velvet in the colour of the forthcoming autumn season: ox-blood.

Christopher Kane is a man who is known for taking the potentially stuffy clichés of the bourgeois wardrobe and twisting them slightly – or indeed quite a lot. His collection was inspired, he said, by art photographer Joseph Szabo's portraits of American teenagers and the ambivalence of adolescence. Here was a woman – or in fact a girl – who strode down the runway in leather and pinstripe, velvet and moire, all in hard as nails colours – royal blue, true red, purple and predominantly black – and emphatically heavy square-toed ankle boots and Mary-Jane shoes.

If last season Kane invested the ubiquitous reference to mid-20th haute couture with a homespun feel, this time he darkened it to the point where it was almost gothic, and certainly mournful, in flavour. Black roses on narrow knee-length dresses were more nasty than nice; the ribbons threaded through neck-and waist-lines, similarly, came not in fluttering silks but padded black leather tied into stiff bows.

Chunky knit jumpers, cigarette pants and skinny leather coats only added to the impression of ferocity more than overt femininity in the stereotypical sense of the word.

Giles Deacon's woman was a more grown-up creature although one who clearly also has a far from conventional heart. "The further adventures of the disco Jacobean fairytale," was how the designer summed up his show.

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