New designer Sean McGirr dips into the archives for divisive Alexander McQueen debut

Irish designer Sean McGirr has given us a glimpse of a new era at Alexander McQueen.

Kerri-Ann Roper
Sunday 03 March 2024 14:09 GMT
Alexander McQueen’s latest collection has debuted at Paris Fashion Week (Alexander McQueen/PA)
Alexander McQueen’s latest collection has debuted at Paris Fashion Week (Alexander McQueen/PA)

The eyes of the fashion world were closely watching the Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 2024 collection at Paris Fashion Week, which opened with a throwback to the past.

A black latex dress, worn by a model whose hands were wrapped up on her chest, harked back to the spring/summer 1999 collection and a similar look worn by Spanish model Esther Canadas.

It was a statement opener that set the tone for the rest of Irish designer Sean McGirr’s debut collection at the fashion behemoth.

McGirr, who was announced in October last year as the new creative director of Alexander McQueen, delved back into the archives for much of his inspiration.

A selection of chunky, oversized knits in black, brown and white seemed to reference the autumn/winter 1999 collection, titled The Overlook, which was inspired by by Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining.

But McGirr steered clear of some of the more obvious reference points made famous by the brand’s namesake, late designer Alexander ‘Lee’ McQueen, such as skull motifs and tartan patterns.

Whether a deliberate nod to his Irish roots or not, Irish singer Enya’s Orinoco Flow was the soundtrack near the end of the collection and added a nice touch of late Eighties nostalgia.

Footwear shaped like horse hooves, complete with hair-like tassles and horse shoes, were an unmissable element of the collection.

And statement footwear is no departure for the label, with the 30-centimetre-high Armadillo boot from the spring/summer 2010 collection – McQueen’s last – still among the most memorable.

Model Debra Shaw, one of Lee McQueen’s muses and a house favourite, walked in the show, wearing a black suit with angular shoulders, a recurring feature on the catwalk.

Despite so many small fashion breadcrumbs linking to past collections, the autumn/winter 2024 collection felt like it was the beginning of a new era for Alexander McQueen.

Flowing satin gowns and dresses embellished with what looked like broken mirror bits, along with exaggerated peplum-style jackets and tops, all brought a sense of frivolity to the runway.

But early critics of the show have faulted it for a lack of tailoring, boldness and prints.

All in all, it felt like a different world to the collections presented by previous creative director, Sarah Burton. Burton was at the helm for 13 years, most notably making the Princess of Wales’ wedding dress in 2011. During her tenure at McQueen, she made a name for herself with powerful ensembles that celebrated the female form, with plenty of sharp tailoring and dramatic silhouettes.

As well as royal fans, celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama were all seen in her clothes.

Instead, McGirr’s collection seemed to be appealing to a younger fashion demographic. A selection of sculptural plastic dresses felt like futuristic versions of the Bell Jar dress from the spring/summer 2009 collection – they wouldn’t be out of place on the red carpet worn by a young, up-and-coming star.

In the audience was I.N., from South Korean boy band, Stray Kids, wearing a long, black, leather-like coat with a belted waist, which was seen on the catwalk.

Also on the front row were actors Salma Hayek, in a sharp tailored suit with a silver bodice underneath, and Juliette Binoche, in loose-fitting white tailoring.

In mid-February, McGirr gave us our first look at his vision for the fashion house, strongly hinting that he would be inspired by the house’s archives.

The campaign featured models Debra Shaw and Frankie Rayder – who both walked the runway when the brand’s creator was in charge – in a forest, wearing skull masks and hints of tartan, which are classic elements of the label’s DNA.

McGirr was previously head of ready-to-wear at JW Anderson, and has also worked at Burberry and Dries Van Noten.

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