Sarah Burton opens up about Alexander McQueen

The woman behind Kate Middleton's wedding dress reveals she was afraid about taking over at Alexander McQueen

By Andrea Tim | Published: 28 Aug 2014

McQ's reluctant heir
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Sarah Burton famously stepped into Alexander McQueen's shoes after the latter's death in 2010. Since then, she has not let the name down, growing into one of the fashion industry's most celebrated names. However, as it turns out, Sarah was a reluctant successor.

"There have been times when, if I could have disappeared from this industry I would have," she admitted to the New York Times' T Magazine. "I don't look like a fashion person, I'm not cool, and I always just loved people who are good at what they do... When celebrities tap me on the shoulder I think they're asking me to move out of the way."

Sarah seemed to have already made up her mind about how she was going to work this industry. "To me the only story that is worth telling is the story of the work," she said.

Alexander McQueen was found dead at his home on 11 February 2010. His sudden passing left his as the obvious candidate for his post as head designer.

"I didn't want the job, but then everybody was going to leave and I thought, 'Well, what else are you going to do?... To be honest, it's taken me a while to stop being afraid and see that the company needs me to be at my best," she said.

In the space of four years, Sarah has managed to continue McQueen's legacy without letting her own name be cast in its shadow. Take designing the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress, for example. The buzz of the media leading up to the Prince William and Catherine's wedding day became something of a challenge to Sarah, as she had to keep the dress a secret. The aftermath, however, was a positive one for her and for the Alexander McQueen name.

"I had no idea it would be as big as it was. Only the night before, seeing all the photographers outside the abbey, did I think, 'Oh, my God. This is massive'," she said. "Some people like to think I've been too shy or that I'm afraid to speak up about the happy experience I had creating the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress, but I can tell you that is nonsense. I have never been a shrinking violet or a person who is ruled by fear. I loved making the dress, I loved adapting my ideas to suit the person and the occasion, and we put our hearts into it."

The 40-year-old also made a point about not letting criticism get to her. "This is the era of blab, but we're strong-minded here at McQueen, we always have been, and we're proud of what we do," she said. "There are people in the media who will always want to invent sinister reasons for people's discretion, but an instinctive, intelligent, imaginative young woman's wish for a beautiful wedding dress – or any kind of dress – is the most natural thing in the world. And I was honoured to pick up the challenge and always will be."

Sarah Burton, everyone.

Related: Sarah Burton and Mary Katrantzou are designing for the New York City Ballet
Related: Alexander McQueen's gothic-romantic AW14 campaign


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