It was only a rose — flat and blush pink on the bodice of a dress, or weeping its dying petals off a scarlet gown.
But with that flower, Sarah Burton spun poetry out of threads and cloth at the Alexander McQueen show.
On the eve of the opening of Savage Beauty at London’s V&A Museum, an exhibition honouring the late designer, the woman who has taken over the house could not have presented a more beautiful or personal collection.
While McQueen’s legacy is indeed the savage beauty that the exhibition title suggests, from her feminine perspective Sarah proved that dying can be as beautiful as life for her floral symbols.
“It’s the idea of beauty in imperfection,” said the designer, who was inspired by the drawings of Egon Schiele, and William Blake’s poem “The Sick Rose”.
But this was not a study in nature’s decadence.
The show opened with a black embossed coat, tightly belted, though a spray of pink pleats and a rosy fur collar soon suggested how the clothes would all graciously open up. The tailoring, as ever at McQueen, was exquisitely fine, nuanced towards the bodice, where a tiny lace brassiere or petal-shaped piece of mesh on the torso revealed flesh and suggested a loosening of control.
Then came dresses, the most beautiful with chiffon pieces in tatters, or with the back left unbuttoned right down the spine.
While black leather and lace faced off the floral prettiness, the mood was still sensual, especially as breast buttons burst open to display lace and skin.
Sarah, as much as her mentor, is a romantic. A flurry of roses, the blooms torn to shreds, covered the final dresses. Paul Weller’s voice, singing “English Rose”, echoed up to the arched ceiling — and so did the applause.