The Huguenots

October 21st, 2015  |  Published in October 2015



When we last left off, the fashion community was migrating eastward witnessing designers’ Spring 2016 collections. The month started in New York and then moved onward to London, Milan, and Paris. As is par for the course, the most intriguing fashion came from the City of Lights with Lanvin, Chanel, and Valentino among the heavy-hitters who all brought something new to the table.

While it would be interesting to look at a new collection from one of Paris Fashion Week’s heritage brands, let’s instead turn our focus to Alexander McQueen. The British brand may be young by Chanel standards, but has long since established itself one of the most innovative brands to walk a runway. This legacy has been carried on by Sarah Burton who took over as Creative Director for the brand following Mr. McQueen’s untimely death.

As with any new designer who comes on board of an established company, Ms. Burton had the challenge of carving out her own voice as a designer while honoring the legacy of McQueen. He was a true genius, one the fashion world may never see again. But after many successful collections, Sarah Burton has carried Alexander McQueen into a new age. So for Spring 2016, what she showed on the runway in the name of the McQueen brand was a bit of a surprise.

When a brand is known to defy expectations, one should never try to guess what is coming next. For the past several seasons, Ms. Burton has unveiled collections focused on the extreme silhouettes that define the McQueen brand. This season though, the collection can be summed up in one word: lovely.

Garments were painstakingly designed around the inspiration of the Huguenots, a 17th century sect of Protestants who left Catholic France for the safety of England. They were well known for their work in silk weaving and soon after arriving offered their artisanal skills to London society.

In line with the rich history of craftsmanship that the Huguenots brought with them from France, Burton infused her collection with intricate embroideries with particular emphasis on florals. These embroideries were done with such detail that they bordered on couture and harkened back to Burton’s established reputation as a master craftswoman.

The color palette was quite refreshing compared to the severe hues of the brand’s Fall 2015 collection. It was anchored in ivories and soft pinks with intermittent shots of black, denim blue, and deep red. And vintage-inspired fabrics like silk jacquard and taffeta mixed beautifully with their more modern counterparts of leather, lace, and denim to give the pieces 21st century flair. Overall each piece was pristinely designed and crafted, but not perfect to the eye: A very McQueen aesthetic.

When looking at this collection and subsequently researching its influence, the current flow of refugees kept popping up. Even referencing a migration that happened centuries ago, was Sarah Burton making a statement on the global refugee crisis happening now in nearly every country of the world? The Huguenots seemingly transitioned from France to England with ease (although that may simply be a more happy re-telling for modern times) and brought their craft to the highest courts in England.

Was this a message that a country can actually be greatly improved by the welcoming of a foreign people? Or was it purely that Burton loved that point in history and finally found an occasion to put it on show? Perhaps it was a little bit of both.

–Jenny Perusek is a freelance Brand Manager, specializing in fashion and the creative arts.

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