IN THE NOW: Sarah Burton

After working for Alexander McQueen for 26 years, Sarah Burton has announced she is stepping down from her role as creative director. As a British designer, Burton was a trailblazer for female and international designers alike. Her work and craftsmanship proved that high fashion is no longer confined to the countries that historically produce these goods such as France and Italy, but rather has become a global affair.  

Her time with Alexander McQueen began with an internship while she was still studying at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. McQueen was known for his striking tailoring, gothic elements and storytelling abilities throughout his work. McQueen was an artist first and foremost with a goal to display passion and emotion in his work. 

On Feb. 11, 2010, the fashion world was forever altered by the news of McQueen’s untimely death at the age of 40. Not only had the world lost an incredible visionary– the brand had lost its creative director. Who could continue on McQueen’s vision and legacy amidst this tragedy? It was decided that none other than the current head of women’s fashion, Sarah Burton, should take on the job. As his only assistant during his lifetime, who better to carry on McQueen’s vision? 

Procuring the role of creative director after the passing of the brand’s founder was no easy feat. Cathy Horyn from The Cut commented on the stylistic difficulties Burton faced with this new title.

 “What made her anxious was how to approach McQueen’s savage sense of female beauty. His approach was both instinctive and masculine … Burton was mild, a nurturer. McQueen could summon his darkest thoughts and send them into battle, confident in the knowledge that they were other people’s thoughts as well. She had a terrible fear of failure,” Horyn said. 

Burton faced immense pressure to keep McQueen’s vision alive while adding her own touch. However, Burton handled this task skillfully. She embraced the drama and danger of McQueen while adding her own, more graceful touches. Her first show as creative director embraced this new direction.

 “There were still McQueen’s high-Gothic elements, like corsets and studded leather, and the dazzling couture techniques, but a softer femininity was creeping through,” Horyn said. Combining the old with the new, Burton had embraced her new position despite the challenges. 

Shortly after gaining the role, Burton would face the biggest project of her career: the wedding dress of Kate Middleton. The designer of the dress was unknown until only a few days before the wedding when someone recognized Burton walking into the hotel where the Middletons were staying. The stunning dress was adored by the masses. Burton worked closely with Kate Middleton to produce an elegant lace gown with Victorian inspiration. A dress so well crafted that people assumed it to be Paris couture. The next year, Burton was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for helping bring recognition to British fashion. 

The reason for Burton’s parting with the brand is unclear. Some believe it to do with changes in the company that owns Alexander McQueen, Kering, while others assume she was simply ready for change. No matter the reason, Burton’s time with the brand helped grow  McQueen’s original vision into a global, innovative and extraordinary fashion brand. As said in Vanessa Friedman’s New York Times article, “She ensured the McQueen name had a life, not just a legacy, that went on; took it out of tragedy and trauma and guided it ever so gently into the light. Took a brand built on clothes that thrummed with tension and drama and a knife edge of danger — you never knew quite what you were going to get when you went to a McQueen show — and gave it heart.”

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2 replies on “IN THE NOW: Sarah Burton”

So cool!! I had no idea Sarah Burton designed Kate Middleton’s dress. This article gave such an awesome history on how Burton transformed Alexander McQueen.

Congratulations on this eloquent tribute to Sarah Burton’s incredible journey at Alexander McQueen! Your vivid portrayal of Burton’s challenges, triumphs, and the iconic Kate Middleton wedding dress showcases a deep understanding of her impact. The article not only honors Burton’s contribution but also captures the essence of McQueen’s legacy evolving into a global fashion phenomenon. Your writing skillfully navigates through her career milestones, leaving readers inspired and appreciative of her transformative role. A truly captivating and heartfelt celebration of a fashion icon. Excellent read!

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