Sarah Burton’s Spring/Summer 2024 show for Alexander McQueen on 30 September during Paris Fashion Week will be her last for the British luxury house. On Monday, Alexander McQueen and Burton confirmed the end of their collaboration after more than two decades.
Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault said in a statement: “I am immensely grateful to Sarah, and I want to personally thank her for her work over the past two decades, first alongside Lee Alexander McQueen, where her role was instrumental to his success, and then as the creative director since 2010. Through her own experience, sensitivity and talent, Sarah continued to evolve the artistic expression of this iconic house. She kept and continued Lee’s heritage, attention to detail and unique vision, while adding her own personal, highly creative touch.”
“I am so proud of everything I’ve done and of my incredible team at Alexander McQueen,” Burton said. “They are my family, and this has been my home for the past 26 years. I want to thank François-Henri Pinault for believing in me and offering me this amazing opportunity. Above all, I want to thank Lee Alexander McQueen. He taught me so much, and I am eternally grateful to him. I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”
Burton first joined Alexander McQueen as an intern during her studies in 1996 and returned after graduating from Central Saint Martins. She was appointed head of design for womenswear at Alexander McQueen in 2000, working closely with founder Lee McQueen. She became creative director in 2010 after his death, and has won plaudits for carrying on McQueen’s legacy with her own exceptional tailoring, and balancing the brand’s couture ethos with a strong ready-to-wear offer. She designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress in 2011, and has received several industry awards including Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. In 2012, she was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to the British fashion industry.
Lee McQueen, who founded his label in 1992, sold a majority stake to the Gucci Group (now merged into Kering) in 2001. Sales took off during Burton’s tenure: in 2022, Alexander McQueen’s sales were €830 million, up from €758 million in 2021, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Édouard Aubin’s estimates. They were €220 million in 2014, Aubin says. (Kering, which acquired Alexander McQueen in 2001, doesn’t break down sales for individual houses of its “Other houses” division.)
The division, which includes Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, reported a sales decline of 5 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2023 to €1.9 billion. The group attributed the slump to the “streamlining of the wholesale channel” (wholesale was down 27 per cent in the first half) and the “mixed American market” but said that Alexander McQueen’s ready-to-wear “performed well” in the second quarter.
It’s understood that a strategy involving global retail expansion and a more balanced product offering with a focus on accessories (such as the popular sneakers with chunky soles and the Curve handbag) have helped to propel McQueen’s growth. However, the house has yet to hit the billion-euro mark and join the league of megabrands.
In May 2022, Gianfilippo Testa, who was previously president of EMEA and VP global retail at Gucci, became CEO of Alexander McQueen, succeeding Emmanuel Gintzburger, who was appointed CEO of Versace. Following the recent management reshuffle, all the brands’ CEOs, including Testa, now report to Kering’s new deputy CEO Francesca Bellettini.
“We would like to express our immense gratitude to Sarah for writing such an important chapter in the history of the Alexander McQueen house,” said Testa. “Sarah’s contribution over the past 26 years will leave an indelible mark.” A new creative organisation for the house will be announced in due course, the statement reads.
During the pandemic, the house showed its collections outside of the official schedule, in London for Spring 2022 and Spring 2023 and in New York for autumn 2022, before returning to the Paris Fashion Week calendar in March 2023 with a bang. Vogue Runway’s Sarah Mower wrote about the autumn 2023 collection: “Sarah Burton proved again that the house of Alexander McQueen is up there with the very best. Back in Paris, she chose the apposite moment to remind people of the sharpness and excellence of the tailoring — for women and for men — and the expression of a darkly explosive imagination that is alive in the McQueen ateliers in London.” All eyes will be on her final show.
This article was originally published on Vogue Business.