In two relatively short years, Sarah Burton has gone from being the right hand woman of one of Britain's most talented and controversial designers to being something of a national treasure. Her talent has protected the label's hot ticket status in Paris. And the Royal Wedding Dress made her a household name.
Outside the show venue last night there were crush barriers to keep crowds of fans who had gathered just to watch the audience arrive. Within mere seconds of pictures being posted on the web, they had been re-posted, re-tweeted and 'liked' on facebook and instagram hundreds of times.
She has also managed to bring the softness of romance to the often uncompromising vision that was Alexander McQueen's. The impact is there but the darkness has gone. The first model out last night with her scraped back peroxide bob and face covered in a mirrored visor was a vision of futuristic elegance with her frothy layers of sculpted A lines: her tiered skirt under her elbow length cape worn over high mongolian lamb boots with heels carved out like little trotters. She was impressive but totally without that old McQueen menace.
Those towering A lines were a motif that continued echoing though cinched waisted jackets with peplums over full skirts and even in the slimmer silhouettes, being picked up by fluffy mongolian lamb gloves and anklets on the boots.
Sculpted volume was worked out, stiffly, in leather, lazer cut to look like lace that looked substantial enough to stand up on its own without a body inside. And it was worked out, gossamer soft, in coats of maribou that wafted along the runway like puffy clouds. The show climaxed with enormous dresses of sculpted lace and tulle: a short lilac millefeuille double puff looking more like an exotic flower than a dress and a full length fantasy in scarlet demanding not just the skills of a master tailor but those of a topiary expert besides.
Sarah Burton's skill is indisputable but it feels like she still has something to prove. This was one of the first collections that genuinely felt so much her own that it seemed almost impossible that Lee McQueen could have had anything to do with it. And, for Sarah Burton and for the future of the brand that is a good thing. But the clothes still challenge the idea of wearability beyond the wardrobes of the likes of fashion's Formula 1 dressers such as Anna Dello Russo or Daphne Guinness.
These clothes still look like they would exist as happily on a plinth as on a body. And Sarah Burton has the skill to address a life more ordinary than that. I admit I am sounding like the woman who complained the the maestro didn't give her a tune she could hum along to. But Lee Mc Queen's attitude, that the runway need not in anyway be connected to real life, could be the thing that is holding Sarah Burton back.
by Paula Reed in Paris