The wild and magical coastal landscapes of the Shetland Islands were the origin of Alexander McQueen Spring 2017 collection. Their natural beauty has inspired local artisans who have passed their skills down through generations of women for centuries. In particular, gossamer fine Shetland Lace, worn by crofters’ daughters and royalty alike, woven with indigenous flora and fauna–wild heather, clover, poppies and roses; sea birds and underwater creatures both real and mythical–is re-imagined. The colourful interiors of solitary, deserted houses, faded over time and glimpsed through windows, fishing huts, sea walls, shipwrecks, lost treasure, Celtic paisley and the stoles and shawls sported by Scottish nobility are also referenced. Hand-sewn, patched Taatit rugs, traditionally given as wedding gifts, form the backbone of the story. When families are joined in wedlock, two of these are sewn together to become one precious symbol of unity and love.
Softly tiered, narrow Shetland inspired lace dresses with delicately frayed edges are woven with the Tree of Life, ocean waves, spider webs, peerie flowers and cockle shell designs and worn with intricately worked leather harnesses edged with rows of jingling bells. More dresses are panelled, both oversized and worn close to the body, constructed out of patches of richly-coloured Fairisle knit. This is deconstructed further, pieced and patched with hand crochet or enhanced with tiny metal rings. Fine leather jackets are pieced and embellished with shipwreck rose embroideries. Voluminous dresses in handkerchief weight cotton voile are printed with bright blue thistle buds or delicately trailing florals and gathered to the torso with fine leather harnesses. The floral designs behind the embroidered leather, chain stitched leather and beaded lace panels are inspired by Sarah’s collection of antique fabrics, pieced together to form cutaway leather frock coats and corsets or jeans.
This process is a nod to the Shetland Islands’ spirit of community and kinship. Celtic checks, originally worn by resident clans come in the form of sharp tailoring with wild rose and thistle threadwork and black jet leaf embroideries lending a proud, graphic and masculine edge.
True to the Savile Row tradition that lies at the heart of the house of Alexander McQueen, strong-shouldered jackets, kilts and kickback trousers are slashed and panelled with lace. Languid ankle-length dresses in skeletal tulle are embroidered with Scottish wild flowers. They are also engineered in a Celtic paisley and feature a fitted sleeve with a puffed shoulder. A tangle of fishnet knits and embroideries constructed from strings of jet is draped into a tunic top and corseted dress with unravelling fringing.
The collection becomes increasingly elaborate, culminating in a sequence of romantic tulle dresses etched with sea creatures in black beaded embroidery. The final looks are a pair of shredded tulle dresses with cascading strings of jet beading, depicting a shipwreck scene of crashing waves in silver sequins, engulfed by the call of the sea.