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Alexander McQueen Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear: Smash It All to Hell

He got the savage, but maybe not the beauty.

Seán McGirr’s debut was like an old-school Alexander McQueen runway show in one respect: we were in the middle of effing nowhere in the dark and rain, and everyone left with an opinion.

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Taking over a damp warehouse, and using industrial tubing for seating, McGirr created a cinematic atmosphere for his uneven character study of the darker corners of London’s East End. The gangsters, glamazons, artists, pimps and the could-be serial killer swinging a lantern inside his coat stalked the runway like they stalk the streets, with hunched postures, angry walks and menacing gazes. It’s been done before, but was entertaining to watch — and the start of selling a new (old?) McQueen attitude.

Linking design threads from the past to present, and expressing them in a uniquely different way, is more a work in process.

McGirr, who grew up in Dublin and lives now in London’s Kings Cross, was inspired by the rough glamour and twisted opulence of figures like the Kray Twins and Francis Bacon.

He’s also a film fan, raised on David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Japanese horror films, as he said, before calling out “The Exorcist” as his favorite movie of all time. (The razor-sharp shoulders on waist-cinched leather coats and tipped fedoras also brought to mind hitman Frank Nitti in “The Untouchables,” with a bit of “The Matrix,” too.)

With experience at Fast Retailing and JW Anderson, he just started at McQueen in December, and said during a preview he didn’t have time to visit the archives before this collection. Instead, McGirr looked at images and then sketched. He was drawn to McQueen’s 1995 collection inspired by the Hitchcock film “The Birds” and opened the show with a rework of the cling-film dress from that collection, done in a black laminated silk jersey, resembling an elegant garbage bag.

It was more forgiving than McQueen’s original in keeping with the designer’s philosophy that the clothes should be worn in a nonchalant way. In that sense, he seemed to be setting a course for something more streetwear-oriented than the previous corseted and tailored-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life ethos, which ultimately could be more successful for ready-to-wear sales.

Certainly, McGirr’s tailoring was more nonchalant with dramatic and stacked but not pointed shoulders, trumpet sleeves and nipped waists. The fit could be improved. Boot-cut jeans bound with cords were cool, however, and should sell.

Also appealing were overdyed Scottish and Irish knit cardigans cinched in the back with giant safety pins and worn over raw-edged skirts. But the supersized knits and extreme funnel-neck jumpers were a bit familiar and tired. A cropped cracked shearling jacket and calf-hair corset dress better conjured the rawness the designer was after, alongside hoof shoes that ticked the McQueen shocking footwear box.

In addition to the elemental, the house also has a history of exquisite handcraft and embroidery (Sarah Burton designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress for lord’s sake.) But McGirr wanted to approach that part of the brand story in a more brutal way, he said of placing smashed crystals on suiting “so it’s not too pretty.” That could be an idea worth exploring more.

Ditto the smashed embroidery dresses featuring bits of bike reflectors and chandeliers, like a very spectacular crash. On the heels of that were hourglass molded aluminum “car” dresses in Lamborghini yellow and Aston Martin blue, inspired by McGirr’s father, who is a mechanic.

This collection didn’t fully connect the dots to McQueen the storyteller and Savile Row technician, and Burton as the keeper of British Isles handcraft tradition. But once McGirr gets into the archives, he may go there. Or not. Designer succession has been a hot topic this season, and making a break with the past may be a better way to prevent the endless rehash of same old same old — if there is enough of a creative spark.

“I’m not a nostalgic person at all, because it blocks me,” McGirr said of his process. It did leave me eager to see more.

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Launch Gallery: Alexander McQueen Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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