Sarah Burton Exits Alexander McQueen

The News

Sarah Burton, the fashion designer who took over the namesake label of Lee Alexander McQueen months after his death in 2010, and who created the gown worn by Princess Catherine at her wedding to Prince William a year later, is leaving the brand, its parent company, Kering, said in a statement released Monday.

Ms. Burton, 49, who has worked at Alexander McQueen for 26 years, half of which she has spent as its creative director, said in the statement that the label’s show at Paris Fashion Week later this month will be her last. A successor has not yet been named.

“I am so proud of everything I’ve done and of my incredible team at Alexander McQueen,” Ms. Burton said in the statement. “I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”

Sarah Burton has worked at Alexander McQueen for 26 years, half of which she has spent as its creative director. Credit…Estrop/Getty Images

Why It Matters: Ms. Burton blazed a bright path after Mr. McQueen’s death

When Mr. McQueen died by suicide at 40, many in the industry were worried that his brand could not move beyond the tragedy. Ms. Burton, then its head of women’s wear, had been working with Mr. McQueen since 1996, when she started at his label as an intern after graduating from Central Saint Martins, the design school in London.

Within a year of her succeeding Mr. McQueen as the brand’s creative director, Ms. Burton created the Princess of Wales’s ivory lace wedding gown, which became more famous than any dress designed by Mr. McQueen. Ms. Burton has remained the princess’s designer of choice for high-profile events, including for Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle, in 2018, and for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year.

Ms. Burton, who rose to lead a fashion house in an industry still largely dominated by men, helped Alexander McQueen evolve from a label beloved by fashion superfans into a modern luxury powerhouse. Her men’s, women’s and accessories collections blended an appreciation for craft — her garments often featured dramatic beading and other embellishments — with the dark glamour and the razor-sharp tailoring favored by her former boss, friend and mentor.

“Through her own experience, sensitivity and talent, Sarah continued to evolve the artistic expression of this iconic house,” François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive at Kering, said in the brand’s statement. “She kept and continued Lee’s heritage, attention to detail and unique vision, while adding her own personal, highly creative touch.”

Background: An unexpected move amid industrywide designer upheaval

Ms. Burton’s departure was announced on the heels of other shake-ups at fashion houses — including Gabriela Hearst’s exit from Chloé, Jeremy Scott’s from Moschino and Alessandro Michele’s from Gucci (which is also owned by Kering). However, her move was not expected by many in the fashion industry, which was largely preoccupied by New York Fashion Week and its shows taking place through Wednesday.

She is exiting Alexander McQueen as the industry is reconfiguring after several volatile years wrought by the pandemic and, more recently, by the economic slowdown in China.

Kering, which bought a 51 percent stake in Alexander McQueen in 2001, is also reconfiguring its organization and its assets.

The conglomerate has appointed Maureen Chiquet, a former chief executive at Chanel, to its board of directors and has named Francesca Bellettini, the chief executive of Saint Laurent, as the deputy chief executive of Kering’s portfolio of brands. Last week, Mr. Pinault said that his family office had bought a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency, one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood. And earlier this year, the French luxury group bought Creed, the high-end fragrance brand, as well as a 30 percent stake in Valentino.

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