The audience was met by a menagerie of animals – everything from an elephant and a panther to an armadillo and a polar bear – at Alexander McQueen's show in Paris last night. Above them hung a projection of the globe.

As the lights went up that globe transformed into a fiery sun and out came the first models dressed in puffed skirts embroidered with meadow flowers, delicate sheath dresses with pressed silk blooms trapped between their gauzy layers and tailoring printed with wood grain. It was clear that the designer had all things natural in mind. Soft colours, a gently rounded silhouette, windswept hair and fresh-faced make-up only added to the bucolic mood.

But that was just the start. The collection became harder as the show progressed. The sun turned into the moon and natural references were supplanted by more mechanical, synthetic ones. Fluid silk jersey dresses were now printed with cut diamond and crushed crystal in jewel colours. Any flowers were enamelled and came in more violent hues – sulphur yellow, Germolene pink and silver.

McQueen's quality of workmanship continues to develop each season, either blatant – a cat-suit encrusted from top to toe in with amber crystal – or more discreet. His embroideries are among the loveliest in the industry, his fabrics both innovative and respectful of the haute couture tradition.

In particular, this time the prints were extraordinary, engineered to reflect not only technology but also to relate to human anatomy, both in the surface and cut of the clothes.

It all made for a thought-provoking and highly personal collection.

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