• Text Dean Mayo Davies
  • Photograpy Harry Clark
  • 12th January 2015

Democratic muse

An envelope is handed over. Inside, heat-embossed paper reads: ‘It is sometimes forgotten that the uniform is testament to equality. At work and war, the dress uniform has long stood as a symbol that all men are equal in the face of duty – sharing equal honour, valour, and truth – and this season the house of McQueen uses that tradition to take apart the class separations associated with the British heritage silhouette.’

Powerful words. And very McQueen in a way too. The house’s founder was a Stratford lad – Newham, not Shakespeare country – and his talent saw him mixing with the best of ‘em, sheathing blue blood in pornographic bumsters, stripping away their ‘proper’ sheen. The privileged became dangerous, their glass boxes smashed. The children of estates council, not country, were robed in spectacular couture. It was a story of character; restless, live wires – and you simply were or weren’t.

Today, at a warehouse in Lambeth, there was a very classic exchange, where military jackets became frock coats and donkey jackets exquisite tailoring. Similarly pristine military coats, and their echoes of Savile Row, were in realised in workwear blue.

’The collection re-animates the relationship between gracious dressing and male virtue,’ the parchment continued.

For a moment, the words ‘Honour’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Valour’, opening the show, appeared too literal for such a delicious narrative, appliquéd to tailoring. Until you realised the texts were boldface on city pinstripe. Bankers need these words spelled out. There’s the darkness.

As creative director Sarah Burton, who began as an apprentice alongside Lee Alexander McQueen in 1996 came to take her bow alongside stationed fire trucks, more words sprang to mind, this time from an interview in The Face, 1998. “I do not forget my women, whom I adore as they burn daily from Cheshire to Gloucester.”

It’s not just the girls who are ablaze.