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Sarah Burton: Alexander McQueen’s Successor Gaining Praise

With Alexander McQueen’s sudden suicide almost a year ago hanging like a shadow over New York’s last Fashion Week, the McQueen show was as innovative, unique and beautiful as ever. Heir to the genius and world-renowned designer’s multi-million dollar fashion throne? Sarah Burton. With the success and praise of the McQueen line’s Spring 2011 show, her first major undertaking as McQueen’s successor, and the trickling down of the spring collections, Burton is gaining more and more respect for her own creative designs.

Next month Burton will be featured in the February issue of British Vogue in which Burton discusses the difficult undertaking of  inheriting the throne of one of  modern fashion’s most creatively and technically gifted artists.

“I thought: how would I ever begin to begin? Lee’s mind was so different to anyone else’s … ” Burton told British Vogue, “I knew there was no way I could pretend to be him; but I had to ask myself, what did Lee work for? For all this just to close down?”


Burton, McQueen’s right-hand woman for years could not and would not let that happen. However, the truth is that our beloved McQueen is gone and it is her role to keep the impeccable brand moving forward in her own way while maintaining the spirit of Lee’s passionate talent.

“People ask: what’s Sarah about? But I’ve worked here for so long, there’s been a big part of me in those collections all along the way,” she said. “I’m not going to wipe the slate clean. That would be wiping me away. There will always be those McQueen elements, but at the same time, you can never stay still and you have to stay true to yourself. That’s what Lee drummed in to me: you have to be able to stand behind your work.”

According to a New York Times article, Burton was still a student at Central Saint Martins in London when she began a work-study program in McQueen’s studio in 1996.

“We got on very well and he said, ‘Why don’t you just stay?’ I went back to school for a year and I continued working there at the same time. He completely taught me everything.”

Not only did Burton work as McQueen’s first assistant until his death last February, she was also responsible for translating McQueen’s runway collections into more commercial pieces and has worked closely over the years with the patterns makers and other technical people who help produce the McQueen line. With her attention to detail and some not-so-hidden talents of her own Burton was the best, and really only person, qualified to fill McQueen’s one-of-a-kind shoes.

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