If there’s one thing Sarah Burton has mastered, it’s how to take a very English sense of romance—a full-skirted gown, a floral motif, lavish embroidery—and lend it a perfectly judged (and, come to think of it, equally English) dose of edge. It was a pleasure, then, to see her lean further into the darker and more dangerous territory she’s been exploring over the past few seasons, from sleek, sculptural leather jackets and skirts, to the deliciously kinky studded eyelets and harnesses that decorated shirting, accessories, and a handful of sleeveless blazer dresses.
So too, were there plenty of satisfying parallels with Burton’s spring 2023 collection, which premiered last month under a bubble-like dome placed in the central expanse of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, and saw her lean into some of her predecessor’s racier instincts. Notably via slashed, tummy-baring blazers, and—perhaps most notably of all—the return of Lee McQueen’s infamous bumster pants, folding their eye-popping flash of buttock into razor-sharp tailoring to offer a surprisingly refined new spin on this most divisive of ’90s trends.
For resort, Burton also experimented with deconstructed, skin-baring tailoring, whether a calf-length, caped blazer-dress hybrid with cutaway sleeves in a sumptuously thick black wool, or a particularly desirable jacket nipped and slashed at the waist to create a cocoon-like, sculptural seat, with crystals embroidered across the shoulders to create a kind of harness. For all their opulence, the clothes are grounded in a genuine spirit of practicality too; a green cotton jacket with bouffant sleeves that could easily be worn with a pair of jeans, or a calico trench coat with panel details and parka-like laces to cinch the waist on the fly.
As a pre-collection, it’s only natural that it should have a more wearable bent. But a series of statement eveningwear pieces taking their cues from Burton’s ongoing fascination with astronomy—a one-shouldered gown lavished with crystals and sequins inspired by the milky glow of star constellations, or jackets with astral embroidery across the lapels—served as the most compelling reminder of Burton’s extraordinary ability to blend romance with reality. As always, it’s when Burton lets herself get swept away into her more whimsical flights of fancy (and, by extension, sweeps you away along with her) that her distinctive vision of hard-edged glamour dazzles most—and her star-studded, night sky-inspired confections achieved a thrilling sense of lift-off.
BY LIAM HESS
November 17, 2022