Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen in conversation with Cathy Horyn

27 October 2011 by


Diving for McQueen on

WOW! Nowness has created this film containing two of the most powerful and relevant people in fashion right now, royal wedding dress designing, creative director of one of the hottest brands in the world – Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, and the critic who strikes fear into the heart of any designer, no matter how established - Cathy Horyn of the New York Times. Below we have highlighted some of the ideas they discussed as well as this other observation we wanted to make; those intricate, underwater-inspired McQueen dresses look even MORE beautiful in the showroom and up close than they do on the catwalk!

On inspiration for a specific dress;

Cathy Horyn – so this pleating; it seems so random, or is that because it’s going in different directions?

Sarah Burton – it’s based on anatomical shapes, as well as the [Barcelona architect] Gaudi sort of curves and waves and Art Nouveau. And then these, we wanted to look like shells – see how each piece is a circle? [turns the skirt inside out] they are all hand stitched on individually. It was actually quite mathematical to do this.

Sarah Burton on their clientele;

‘The McQueen woman has to feel powerful. She’s never a girly girl, she’s always a woman. She doesn’t ever seem to wear anything boxy, for example. She always have to have an element that is fitted a shoulder or a waist, it’s always fitted somewhere. If you try to do something that’s sort of a looser shape, it’s not a McQueen woman.’ 

Cathy Horyn and Sarah Burton

On inspiration for a collection;

'If you’re going to be inspired by someone or something, you always have to bring it back to the house that you work for, bring it back to the McQueen way of doing things'.

‘When we’re looking for inspiration we never look at fashion references. We always create a world and a story and then we go with that.’ 

On Lee Alexander McQueen’s process;

‘What you wear is making a statement about the period of history we live in. Every time [Lee] felt every time an obligation to say what he meant. He felt that he had to have a message – about society, or himself’   



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