McQueen makes a triumphant return to London

Alexander McQueen Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear
Alexander McQueen Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear

Sunday's Alexander McQueen show was the first in London for over a decade, and in honor of the occasion, designer Sarah Burton focused on undone glamour. Her collection mixed whimsical graphic elements (Natalie Westling opened the show in a coat bedecked with Dalí-esque symbols) with straightforward seduction: sheer lace, bra tops embellished with chains, and gowns with transparent beaded skirts (the better to put that couture body on display.) An element of bondage snuck in, too. Yet as fanciful and involved parts of the show might have been, Burton seemed to have an eye toward sales: her tailored blazers, pants and coats served as a neutral backdrop to all the dark drama.

The undone theme carried through to the models' messy but sexy hair, which featured earrings, bracelets, brooches, and even safety pins as makeshift hair accessories. The inspiration for the look came, as many of the best things do, from a Rite Aid on Eighth Avenue. Guido Palau, hair master and Redkin creative director, explained backstage that he was walking into the drugstore when inspiration struck: "There was this amazing woman whose head was covered with cheap diamanté clips, and it looked so beautiful." The chance sighting gave him the idea to cover models' up-dos with unusual, randomly placed jewelry. "No rules here," he said. "Literally, I'm getting my mother's dressing-table jewelry and throwing it in — the odder the better!"

To create the look, Palau rough-dried the hair and wrapped it around itself before adding the jewelry. ("I'm just magpie-ing. As much as I can get in," he said playfully.) Then, he went through the model lineup, wetting the hair slightly around their faces and pulling pieces out, so that the end result "looks as fallen apart as possible," as he put it. Combined with makeup artist Lucia Pieroni's "moonlit skin," created with RMS Beauty products, and smudged black eye makeup — she tapped on a bit of Egyptian Magic Cream with her fingers to keep things "a little bit sultry" — the effect was just the right degree of casual. "It has a sort of spontaneity to it. It's not precious," she said.

Still, McQueen carries a certain power even when the watchword is "undone." After the last few looks left the runway—including a lush, duvet-like embroidered coat and a gown of the utmost flou topped off by a butterfly-embellished jacket—the crowd filed out quietly, suggesting an unusual level of reverence in the middle of this rowdy week.

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