“We never threw away anything”: Alexander McQueen presented archival fabrics to students
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Sarah Burton is perhaps one of the most discreet designers in the world. But on February 14, the first Fashion Week in London, it will become clear what a great and thoughtful gift from Alexander McQueen she presented to future designers. The brand has created an unused McQueen fabric distribution scheme for fashion colleges throughout the UK. It was from these materials that graduation collections of students from Westminster University and Central Saint Martins were made. “I was very lucky because when I first got a job at McQueen, Lee helped me find fabrics for my graduation collection,” Burton said in a statement. “Today, this task has become even more difficult, given the value of the resources and the fact that they must be used properly.”

A collection of graduate Stephen Stoke-Daily, created from archival fabrics by Alexander McQueen

The fact that there are so many things in the archives – hundreds of meters of fabric from chiffon and silk to tweed – goes back to the fact that since Burton began working with McQueen in 1996, they "never threw away anything!"

So far, fourteen colleges from all over England, Scotland and Wales have received materials, meaning students now have luxurious free resources that academia cannot provide. “You start to learn fashion by fantasizing about creating your own collection, but you have no idea how much it will cost,” says Stephen Stokey-Daily, a student from Westminster who speaks for a generation of young people who are faced with the prospect of financial debt. “Only after two years do you suddenly realize that people spend between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds on their shows, and you think how I can afford it?”

A collection of graduate Stephen Stoke-Daily, created from archival fabrics by Alexander McQueen

In fact, the archive of materials – accumulated over 10 or 15 years of growth of the Alexander McQueen brand – is openly accessible to students who study throughout Britain. And the reason for this, to a large extent, is the industry-wide practice of factories for the excessive manufacture of fabrics.

The idea of ​​scrupulous archiving and storage of each piece and sample was with Sarah Burton from the first days. One of the many roles of Central Saint Martins, a 23-year-old graduate (Burton was the brand’s first trainee), was a self-styled curator who knew where everything was if McQueen required it, in addition to giving him pins in a Hoxton mini-studio Square.

A collection of graduate Stephen Stoke-Daily, created from archival fabrics by Alexander McQueen

Knowing that there is an extensive internal archive, carefully created every season, inspired Burton to create a cycle of installations at Alexander McQueen last year. Such open access exhibitions reveal the unprecedented subtleties of design and teamwork, an initiative that has evolved into a curriculum that aims to bring students to the store for structured training sessions. Currently, the installation of Roses is rooted in the past to show the creation of flower-inspired designs: from displaying dresses from linen from the Burton spring-summer 2020 collection to a floral dress with hand-embroidered Lee McQueen from the spring-summer 1999 collection.

Now the idea has become a gift of practical assistance to students in the implementation of their own work. In a way, this is an example of how large companies are trying to eliminate the excess overproduction that is accumulating throughout the fashion industry. Stocks of primary raw materials are idle everywhere: both in factories and in storage. Instead of throwing away resources for the manufacture of which materials have already been used up, and all carbon emission processes, philanthropic redistribution is a constructive step towards creating a more responsible circular economy, which fashion should bring into action.

A collection of graduate Stephen Stoke-Daily, created from archival fabrics by Alexander McQueen

It is hoped that Alexander McQueen may not be the only company to do this – but the unveiling of such actions sets priority in a widespread industry culture that usually keeps its secrets invisible. Thanks to the recycling of fabrics on a regional basis through the British system of training students who come to study fashion from around the world, the McQueen initiative can achieve more than in the UK. However, in reality it is a support system that resonates internationally – in combination with the climatic activity of the current generation, which comes from fashion faculties everywhere. Beautiful, original fashion can be created from what already exists; students and novice designers are already the best supporters of this idea. When corporations unite with them, this is a step towards the revolution that is about to happen.

Text: Sarah Mower

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Alexander McQueen opens rose exhibition

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. (tagsToTranslate) Sarah Burton Alexander McQueen initiative (t) London Fashion Week AW20 (t) Sarah Burton (t) Alexander McQueen (t) Fashion Universities (t) Central Saint Martins

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