This week, leading companies in two disparate global industries managed to achieve the same feats. While Apple fans waited for the unveiling of the iPad 3—or rather, the new iPad, its official name—the fashion industry held its breath in Paris, as Sarah Burton finally announced with gusto that she can further the vision of the late Alexander McQueen.
This week wasn’t about filling empty shoes. It was about making them move again.
It’s a strange comparison, but Sarah Burton’s Fall 2012 Alexander McQueen show had the same effects as the new iPad. Both brands set the gold standard in their respective industries. Both lost their founders to tragedy too soon. Yet, their newest products simultaneously stunned and calmed the fears of fans, reassuring them that new leadership can innovate after the loss of genius.
It’s not that anyone doubted Burton’s past two years of work. Last year, she designed the wedding gown for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and cemented her name in fashion lore. But the gown didn’t embody Burton’s aesthetic, nor was it emblematic of the house she helms. It also went without saying that McQueen the man would not have acquiesced to the wishes of a bride, even a royal one, if it meant compromising his flamboyant and authentic signature.
But Burton’s fall collection of feathers, fur pompoms and futuristic eyewear, however impractical, signified that the designer is not rehashing or restraining her own inspirations.
Tim Blanks of Style.com said “Today, Sarah Burton well and truly laid those old ghosts to rest with a show that celebrated, in her words, ‘a beautiful future, positivity, optimism.’”
With this collection, she explained, “”I pushed myself more… it has to move forward.”
Writing for the Daily Beast last October, Robin Givhan wrote of her Spring collection that it “seemed to take a back seat to metaphor.” Her spring collection symbolized a point she must have loathed—how clothes can envelop the woman to her detriment.
This collection, too, is dripping with meaning, but it’s a message Burton can embrace in her own dramatic career—one of forward movement and perpetual growth, pronounced in innovative fabrics and the movement of color. Models eyes were covered and widened simultaneously—a fashion-forward metaphor for technology if there ever was one.
Apple, too, presented a product emblematic of Steve Jobs’ philosophy. Yes, Tim Cook at Apple and Burton at McQueen followed giants. They took up the arduous, unwanted task of maintaining a status quo at companies that don’t seek to plateau. Yet Jobs and McQueen were wise enough to create an ethos that fostered lesser-known talents in their shadows, preparing them to carry on their vision after death.
At Apple, metaphor comes second to functionality, but the new model speaks the same message to loyalists that Burton finally conveyed in this jaw-dropping show. “Rest easy, everyone. We’re back in motion.”