There was much debate within the fashion industry as to who would be the most suitable replacement for the "mad genius" designer, but to those at McQueen, there was only one choice: Sarah Burton.
Sarah Burton had worked alongside McQueen since 1996 when she won an internship with the designer whilst studying print fashion at Central St Martins. Her tutor, a friend of McQueen's, had been impressed with her work and had recommended her for the internship; it was the beginning of a 14-year friendship and collaboration with McQueen during which she would become his most trusted adviser. McQueen's long term confidant, critic and muse, Isabella Blow, once said of him "Lee [McQueen] is like a wild bird with a good silhouette. He makes clothes fly."
After she graduated, Burton borrowed his wings and joined the team full time, where McQueen constantly challenged her both creatively and technically. Burton soon became an essential part of the company: she managed to tame the wild rebellion of McQueen designs and translate them into more commercial, wearable items. Although she shares her late mentor's talent for dignified and poetic grandeur, she has a lightness of touch that has attracted many new followers to the brand since she took the reigns as creative director.
One new fan in particular has garnered much press in the recent weeks: Catherine Middleton, Britain's future Queen. The rumor mill in London has been running at full tilt after news leaked that Alexander McQueen had reportedly got the commission for the wedding dress. It doesn't seem a compatible match, but perhaps Burton's gentler, more romantic ethos has turned the head of the future Queen - a quintessentially British designer for a quintessentially British occasion.
Burton is the opposite of McQueen, a naturally discreet, softly spoken woman who chose to remain in the background whilst increasingly shouldering his workload in the final years. She credits McQueen with teaching her "everything" and this was evident in her debut solo collection.
There was little that was radically different but newness was not what was initially required. What Burton had to do was prove to the nervous Gucci Group and McQueen's loyal fans that the label was safe in her hands. Sarah Burton has the burden of replacing the designer of a thriving, vibrant house where the DNA of its founder is still in current memory. She has been charged with interpreting a designer whose glory days are still fresh in society's minds.
It is perhaps telling therefore, that when Burton emerged to take her bow after the presentation of her first collection, she had a pair of scissors in her back pocket. A clear indication that she was going to maintain the meticulous craftsmanship and the strict adherence to the craft of tailoring that is the bedrock of Alexander McQueen. She is the method behind his madness and she will continue to make his clothes 'fly.'
View gallery: From Alexander McQueen's Ashes, Sarah Burton Rises