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Seán McGirr’s debut at Alexander McQueen was about “rough glamour”

alexander mcqueen
Seán McGirr’s debuts at Alexander McQueenYanshan Zhang - Getty Images

On a cold and wet Saturday night in Paris, Seán McGirr invited guests to view his debut collection as the new creative director of Alexander McQueen in an old train storage space. The concrete setting spoke to the days of the early, gritty Lee McQueen shows. Eager attendees, sitting on rolled up cushions in a highlighter neon green, wrapped in wool blankets in the same colour to keep warm in the chilly location, could feel the anticipation in the air. This evening marked a new era for the house, after long-time creative director and collaborator of Lee McQueen, Sarah Burton departed in September.

alexander mcqueen fall 2024
Courtesy of ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

The show began with a model stomping out with her hands inside the front pockets of black draped laminated jersey dress that constricted her arms and torso. Immediately, it became clear that McGirr was going somewhere different from Burton with Alexander McQueen. Marching towards a place that was less about a celebration of the formal craft, and more focused on a punkish attitude. What followed the dress were different takes on the Lee McQueen language: peaked shoulder jackets, embellished shrunken suiting, and deconstructed fisherman knits to name a few. McGirr said that he started with Lee McQueen’s spring 1995 show titled 'The Birds' as a reference point, a collection that focused on the destruction and claustrophobic horrors found in Hitchcock’s 1963 movie of the same name. As McGirr noted backstage after the show, his new vision for McQueen was about “this idea of a compressed silhouette but this is a modern proposal. I wanted to bring that forward, bring those silhouettes forward and see what I could do with real clothes.”

alexander mcqueen fall 2024
Courtesy of ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

The tailored suiting proved to be among the more wearable pieces in a collection that leaned into the artistic, like the trio of “car dresses” in the show finale inspired by Lee-era shapes and McGirr’s auto mechanic father, or the gigantic chunky knit sweaters with collars that circumvented and concealed each model’s faces. There was swagger in the way the models walked and, along with the punkish clothes, made for a vibe rife with anarchy. McGirr said he wanted to hone in on singular characters for this debut, explaining that he was interested in those who “have really strong personalities, people I’d be curious to meet on the street.” He added, “I’m interested in this rough glamour of the East End of London in a way, and this sort of tattered opulence.”

alexander mcqueen fall 2024
Courtesy of ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

There’s always a lot of pressure with a new creative director's debut collection. And whether this was a successful vision or not, is almost the wrong question. As my colleague pointed out post-show, McGirr came out swinging, offering an array of proposals for what the future of Alexander McQueen might look like. After the show, one critic asked him if he felt intimidated to follow in the footsteps of Burton, to which McGirr replied, calmly but confidently, “I don’t really see it like that. I feel that Lee McQueen’s message that he put out into the world is so relevant today. It’s about anti-politeness.” He added, “We live in a very polite world at the moment and I think at this moment, his message is more relevant than ever.”

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Today, the fashion industry is impatient and often doesn't make much room for fashion rebels like Lee McQueen. But this debut should be viewed through the lens of attitude, rather than a fully formed design vision. If the takeaway is to be a little less polite, to let go and let be, we’ll just have to wait until next season to see how McGirr’s no holds barred approach to a high-pressure gig will grow.

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