The label's creative director opens up about carrying on her mentor's legacy

By Kate Hogan
Updated March 06, 2012 05:00 PM

Courtesy Interview (2); Inset: Matt Baron/BEImages

When asked about designing the Duchess of Cambridge‘s wedding dress, Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton politely demures. “I’m not actually allowed to talk much about it at all,” she tells Interview magazine. “It was a precious, magical time that I’ll always treasure, and I feel like [Kate] gave me a gift in many ways. I feel incredibly privileged.”

Speaking to Sarah Jessica Parkeronce a friend of Alexander (Lee) McQueen’s — Burton is more open about picking up where the label’s mastermind — who took his own life in 2010 — left off. “What’s amazing about McQueen and what was amazing about Lee was that he created this process where it was never really about fashion,” Burton explains. “It was always about feeling and telling a story.”

That ability to spin a tale was extra important when it came time to stage the McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last year. “When we looked at the pieces, there was such sorrow,” she recalls. “But it was also an amazing celebration of what Lee had done. [And] the number of people from different walks of life that I’ve talked to who went to see and who were really inspired by it … it was phenomenal.”

Phenomenal is also a word that’s likely been used to describe Burton’s work at McQueen, like her spring 2012 collection (above), which earned raves. And though it’s been written that her woman’s touch has been noticeable in her designs, Burton likes to think she’s carried Lee’s legacy through her new works.

“Lee taught me that if you don’t believe in it, then you shouldn’t do it because you can’t stand behind it,” she explains. “[He] was such a genius that I can never pretend to be him, but I am very aware that I’m designing for a house that he created, and I try to keep it as true to that as possible.”

–Kate Hogan