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December 9, 2011

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Lighting up McQueen's darkness

ALEXANDER McQueen's suicide last year put designer Sarah Burton in the spotlight as she took over as creative head of the McQueen label. The fashion world has been watching to see if she's up to the challenge.

She is. The successor to her late mentor designed the first menswear collection after McQueen's death last February, and it was very well received. She designed the ivory wedding gown for Kate Middleton. She won the Designer of the Year at the 2011 British Fashion Awards.

Unlike her extravagant creations, Burton herself is down-to-earth, with a friendly, easy-going manner.

She never tries to be the eccentric, wizard-like McQueen. In the 2012 spring/summer collection, she demonstrated undeniable talent on the dresses but conveyed a different message. She gently lifted the weight of foreboding and tension and replaced it with a glimpse of life and hope.

McQueen made incredible showpieces but Burton wants to lighten the "theater effect'' with "wearability."

"Lee (Lee Alexander McQueen) had such immense talent. I can't be him and never try. People always compare us but it reminds me how lucky I was to take over the huge responsibility,'' Burton said on a recent trip to Beijing.

The first Alexander McQueen boutique in China opened this October at Sanlitun North Village. The two-floor, 400-square-meter store offers ready-to-wear men's and women's wear and accessories. VIPs can use a private dressing area.

The Beijing boutique is the biggest of all McQueen shops worldwide. Burton was surprised to see Chinese fashionistas' enormous enthusiasm for McQueen.

She revealed that the second McQueen shop will be opened in Shanghai soon.

McQueen's collections combine in-depth working knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, fine workmanship and the impeccable finish of Italian manufacturing. Burton said the visionary designer had left not only his masterpieces but also a perfect design team. "There's one thing each of us learned from Lee: there is nothing impossible and life's too short not to do what you believe in."

Burton grew up and was educated in Manchester before moving to London to study fashion at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She worked alongside McQueen for more than 14 years and was his right hand and confidant until his death.


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