Sarah Burton Appointed Creative Director at Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton Appointed Creative Director at Alexander McQueen

With the shock of Alexander McQueens suicide in February still reverberating, the Gucci Group announced last week the appointment of Sarah Burton as the new creative director of the London-based fashion house. This decision came as a relief for fashion purists, comforted by the in-house appointment: Burton worked with McQueen for 16 years, and has been head of womenswear since 2000. But it seems hard to imagine that the new director — who is most often commended for having translated McQueen’s runway pieces into more wearable, commercial designs — will display the stunning artistic vision of her predecessor.

McQueen, who early in his career worked as a theatrical costumier, has always been deeply engaged with a fine arts aesthetic. During a 1999 show, he had paint-flinging robots storm the runway, wildly decorating a sculptural white dress along with the model who wore it. An avid art collector (of the haunting photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, for one), McQueen debuted his Fall/Winter 2010-11 collection in Paris this past March, featuring garments inspired by painting’s old masters that made prominent use of gold brocade and feathers, dramatically-draped heavy crimson silks, and digitally reconstructed prints depicting medieval and renaissance religious iconography.

While New York Times fashion blogger CathyHoryn deemed Burton “not a star,” in the wake of the more scandalous outside hires for major positions at Ungaro and Hermès last week, perhaps Burton is just what the already storm-tossed, London fashion house needed. And Burton, with all her ready-to-wear credentials, may just live up to McQueen’s high artistic legacy after all: she is broadly credited with the completion of the painterly Fall/Winter 2010-11 line.