Sarah Burton, creative director of British fashion house Alexander McQueen is to step down from her role, it was announced on Monday evening. Burton has led McQueen since the death of its founder Lee Alexander McQueen, who died by suicide in 2010. She had previously worked alongside the visionary founder as his right hand, having been appointed head of design for womenswear in 2000, joining after graduating from Central Saint Martins in 1997.
In a statement Burton, who was awarded an OBE in 2012, said that “I am so proud of everything I’ve done and of my incredible team at Alexander McQueen. They are my family, and this has been my home for the past 26 years. I want to thank Francois-Henri Pinault for believing in me and offering me this amazing opportunity. Above all I want to thank Lee Alexander McQueen. He taught me so much and I am eternally grateful to him. I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”
McQueen is owned by the Kering group, whose chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault said that “I am immensely grateful to Sarah, and I want to personally thank her for her work over the past two decades, first alongside Lee Alexander McQueen, where her role was instrumental to his success, and then as the Creative Director since 2010. Through her own experience, sensitivity and talent, Sarah continued to evolve the artistic expression of this iconic House. She kept and continued Lee’s heritage, attention to detail and unique vision, while adding her own personal, highly creative touch.”
Burton’s tenure was held in high esteem by the fashion world. Her most memorable commission was designing the wedding dress of Catherine, Princess of Wales in 2011, who has patronised the house ever since, leaning on McQueen for many of her high profile events including the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last year.
Alongside this, Burton’s fashion collections continued to thrill and push the artistic expression that McQueen was renowned for. She retained the often twisted darkness of McQueen’s aesthetic signature, but imbued her collections with a softness, too. Ensuring that while pushing McQueen towards commercial success, she retained the mesmerising house codes set by its founder. According to an estimation by Morgan Stanley analyst Édouard Aubin, McQueen’s sales increased to €830 million, up from €758 million in 2021.
Burton’s autumn winter collection, presented in Paris after breaking to show in London and New York after the pandemic, was buoyantly received. Naomi Campbell, longtime friend of the house, opened the show in a striking crumb-catcher bustier black velvet jumpsuit. The collection explored McQueen’s signature strict, sharp shouldered tailoring with a rigid uniformity, exaggerated leather corsetry created hourglass silhouettes through which she extrapolated the anatomy of tailoring. Speaking to Vogue, she offered that “Because it feels like everything’s upside down in the world, I suppose,”
Burton, who has a reputation for intently overseeing every element of the London-based brand, will show her final collection for the house at Paris Fashion Week on 30th September. Speculation regards her successor looks set to be the dominant conversation for the current fashion show season which began last week in New York.