Alexander McQueen protege Sarah Burton steals the show in Paris

Sarah Burton's womanswear designs stay true to the McQueen style, but add a softer, more feminine element

It was undoubtedly the most anticipated debut at Paris fashion week. Tonight Sarah Burton presented her first womenswear collection as the creative director at Alexander McQueen. In an extraordinarily beautiful show, Burton succeeded in both being faithful to the late designer's distinctive design ethos while taking the label into a new era.

As the first model wearing a white tailcoat with frayed edges walked down a catwalk of bare wooden planks with mossy grass poking through the cracks, the audience were in no doubt this was a McQueen show. But as it progressed it became apparent that this was a new, softer McQueen collection. There was none of the angst and aggression of previous catwalks; this was an altogether more feminine McQueen woman. The makeup was simple, the hair was plaited but uncomplicated.

The show celebrated craftsmanship and was inspired by the raw power of nature. Some of the more astonishing show pieces included a structured dress made from hand-painted feather butterflies, a trouser suit made from leather tooled into ivy leaves and a very pagan-looking "corn dolly" dress. Wedge shoes were hand-carved into the shape of butterflies and laquered to look like porcelain.

It was unmistakably the house of McQueen but there were new, more feminine shapes too. Ethereal dresses in layers of organza and printed silk looked bohemian – a departure for the label. Colours were predominately blonde, gold, black and ivory, while exaggerated hips idealised the feminine shape.

After the show, Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said Burton had "taken away the angst and drama of the McQueen woman. All she had to do tonight was too say 'I'm here, this is my woman' and I thought she did that perfectly".

As the models lined up for the finale to a soundtrack of Michael Jackson hit I'll Be There, the goodwill surrounding the designer who had worked under McQueen for 14 years, was apparent – the applause came easily.

Backstage the designer, who still had a pair of scissors in her back pocket, was repeatedly congratulated, but she remained humble. "It's not just me, I have an amazing team," she said.


Imogen Fox, deputy fashion editor, in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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