The most anticipated show of the spring 2011 season, currently under way in London, is arguably Alexander McQueen. The label’s new head designer, Sarah Burton, will present her first full solo runway collection for the label since McQueen took his own life in February. Suzy Menkes, addressing the crowd at McQueen’s memorial service in London yesterday, called the late designer “an artist who just happened to work with clothing,” whose “work was deeply personal.” Anna Wintour acknowledged at the same event how ingenious and influential McQueen was. The last full-blown runway show McQueen put on — a dramatic theatrical event called “Plato’s Atlantis” tricked out with moving robotic cameras and some of the dreamiest and most terrifying shoes ever made — would have gone down in the fashion history books whether the designer passed away or not. And now continuing the label and the vision falls on Burton’s shoulders. But no pressure or anything!
When it comes to his appeal on the runway, “I don’t think anyone will be able to keep up with McQueen,” said fashion consultant Robert Burke, president and CEO of Robert Burke Associates. “I think it would probably be best to not try to compete with that.” But he added: “Keeping consistency with the brand is really important. Any kind of major departure would not be good.”
Burton was McQueen’s right-hand woman for years, having worked under him for a total of fourteen. But The Wall Street Journal adds that “as a chief designer, she remains an unknown quantity,” and that Gucci Group, which owns the label, declined to make her available for an interview. Continuing labels without top, legendary designers is difficult, but it can be done. Francisco Costa has done a terrific job succeeding Calvin Klein after working under him. Donatella Versace is finding her footing at the label her brother founded. And Lindsay Lohan was finally dismissed from Ungaro, which only restores faith in the universe of founderless high-fashion labels. Burton did a lovely job with McQueen’s resort collection. We can’t wait to see what she does for spring 2011.