Sarah Burton has some big shoes to fill – specifically some oversized, McQueen-style, armadillo heels. Luckily the baby steps that she has taken in them since May of 2010 seem to be favorable, culminating in Burton winning Designer of the Year at the 2011 British Fashion Awards. The victory appears to have further spurred her on as she continues to define the new direction of the luxe fashion house. In her latest move, Burton announced that the enigmatic visors displayed during the women’s autumn/winter 2012 show would be made available for purchase.
The enviable women who have marched down the McQueen catwalk have sported a variety of fanciful headpieces and romantic hairstyles, but this is the first time in the fashion house’s history that the runway show’s obscuring headwear have been widely commercialized, that is if you consider charging $475 for designer Plexiglas to be “widely commercialized.” Nonetheless, the move is representative of the new financial sensibility that the Burton Era has brought to the table. While the strategy is unlikely to tap into any new markets, the approach is finding new ways to generate revenue. The McQueen house is increasingly interested in marketing itself in innovative ways but with the same, dependable, high-quality consistency that has always been and still is one of the trademark traits of Alexander McQueen.
To those naysayers who prefer “old McQueen” nostalgia, consider that the brand has always been fearless and exploratory. Lee Alexander McQueen was fearless with fashion. Now Burton is continuing the design legacy while simultaneously extending that same fearlessness to the business reality of operating a fashion house. It’s undeniable: the “new McQueen” has a refreshing air of reasonability. Recent decisions such as establishing the first McQ standalone store in London further demonstrate the newly-acquired business smarts of the McQueen house.
On the runway at Alexander McQueen F/W ’12
And have you shopped the updated online store? Internet customers can now breeze through the electronic shop via smoothly shifting transitions rather than choppy links. With many of McQueen’s peers giving their own sites a modernist makeover, the long-due upgrades are quite welcome.
A different gripe may be that the brand no longer exhibits the shadowy, twisted Romanticism that Lee often pursued. Yet, that is the nature of design: a new director means a new direction. Such is the reality of fashion houses. Lee will never be forgotten, but it would seem that based upon her latest tactics neither will Burton.
The Alexander McQueen plexiglass visor is available here.