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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Alexander McQueen: A Geisha Fantasy

Paris Fashion Week Day Seven

1 Октября 2014

The invitation was placed with exquisite care inside a lacquered card, with the fragments of a Japanese flower print gleaming in pink and black.

The set included two voluptuous orchid sculptures by artist Marc Quinn, blossoming out of a black lacquered floor and the other an anthurium.

Sometimes you can capture the fragrance of a show before it starts. And so it was at Alexander McQueen, where designer Sarah Burton said that she had been inspired by a personal collection of antique treasures.

“It is a box of geisha kimonos I have collected for years,” she explained backstage, as the fashion crowd took a closer look at what appeared to be black and white bead patterns on garments, but were in fact tiny snowballs of silk worked into geometric patterns.

The word “exquisite” kept coming to mind as the models in demi face masks walked the runway on their geisha-inspired lace-up sandals, carrying the weight of Japanese symbolism on light tunic dresses or, just occasionally, a fitted dress with the bodice a cage of leather straps.

If you took the pieces singly, they were all beautifully worked and very different: the flat, stiff silk surfaces, decorated with cups of flowers and squares which gave way to a softer vision of tiny cherry blossoms cascading down an evening dress.

Taken out of the context of the show, it was possible to envisage a black leather trench coat worn with plain black cigarette pants and the tunics used in a more sporty way.

Sarah Burton’s adaptation of a different culture was a feat of the imagination: translating the compliant and stylised geisha of Japanese history into a more independent, modern figure, even with a touch of those McQueen warrior women in straps and helmets.

But Burton has to fight her instinct to make a tableau of each outfit, and instead integrate into her shows some of those well-tailored clothes she has designed for the Duchess of Cambridge, or recently, Amal Alamuddin Clooney. Otherwise, McQueen shows are in danger of seeming like drawings and dreams brought to life in cloth with fantastic workmanship — but not really of this world.

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