Over months of on-off restrictions, members of the McQueen team traversed the River Severn from England to Wales, for a series of immersive workshops in fashion, photography, and embroidery in which the young people could explore their own vision and gain hands-on experience of making clothes and images.
As the year progressed, one-to-one tutorials were given to the group, teaching a variety of techniques to create pieces embroidered with personal messages and motifs. The young people’s responses —through their sketches, Polaroids, family research, handicraft, and fittings conducted with the McQueen atelier, culminated in a four-day location shoot around Brynmawr, Abertillery Park, Blaina, Keeper’s Pond Blaenavon, and Ogmore-by-Sea.
One year later, their processes and completed works have been gathered in a book, Alexander McQueen in Wales, a short documentary, and a fashion film, all to be released tomorrow. The fashion film is a paean to the magic of Celtic folklore—the allegorical Lady of the Lake and glistening Mermen—as much as it is to youthful small-town realities (hanging in the park with mates, the escape of youth club excursions). It focuses specifically on a series of Alexander McQueen lilac dresses billowing on the Ogmore coastline and offset by arresting red accents, a signature for McQueen and Welsh folklore alike (farmhouses were historically painted red to ward off evil). Creative achievements aside (of which there are many glorious examples), the inspiring casting was key; the young people joined a digital workshop with Burton and McQueen’s casting director Jess Hallett who encouraged them to choose a friend or family member as muse.
The project is a further extension of Burton and Alexander McQueen’s ongoing commitment to fashion education, which started in 2019 with study programs and open-access installations, and a scheme to donate and redistribute left-over materials for student collections. Burton views the creative spoils of these young people as a testament to the transformative things “that can happen everywhere, when empowering equal access is given to creative ideas.”