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The designer behind Princess of Wales’s wedding dress has announced she is stepping down as creative director of fashion house Alexander McQueen after 13 years, prompting speculation she may set up her own label.
Sarah Burton has dressed Princess Catherine throughout the most significant moments in her royal life – from her historic 2011 wedding dress, to the red chiffon gown she wore in her 40th birthday portraits in 2022 and the King’s coronation in May – and fashion industry insiders think she may now set up her own namesake brand creating private orders for the royal.
The Princess of Wales in her wedding dress, which was made by Sarah Burton. Credit: PA
Burton had worked under the label’s founder, Lee McQueen, for more than 14 years before his untimely death in February 2010, and was appointed as his successor that May. She is credited for successfully continuing his design legacy, adapting the house’s darkly romantic codes to suit a new generation of fans – including bringing in the princess as a star client.
Despite being kind and chatty backstage at her shows, she rarely gave formal interviews and shied away from the spotlight that so many other designers chase. In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, Burton was asked whether she had any interest in being a “star designer” and confessed that she hadn’t ever actually wanted the job of fronting a fashion house.
“There have been times when, if I could have disappeared from this industry, I would have,” she admitted. “I had to battle with it. 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.”
Burton was famously discreet, and therefore closely trusted by her most famous clients.
From left: Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Michelle Obama, all wearing Sarah Burton’s designs.Credit: Getty
“I know we live in a culture obsessed with fame,” she told The Telegraph of the commission of a lifetime, making the dress Kate wore to marry Prince William in 2011. “But I happen to believe privacy is a virtue, and the relationship I have with my clients is private. I loved making the dress, I loved adapting my ideas to suit the person and the occasion, and we put our hearts into it. I respect the intimate nature of that lovely project and I respect the friendships that were forged during it.”
Beyond the princess, Burton has dressed stars from Cate Blanchett to Nicole Kidman for red carpet events. Her awards include the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year, in 2011, and an OBE for services to fashion in the late Queen’s 2012 Birthday Honours.
Burton hails from Macclesfield, Cheshire, and studied art at Manchester Polytechnic, before moving to London to attend the renowned Central Saint Martins College. She first worked at Alexander McQueen as an intern and joined full-time when she graduated in 1997.
François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive of McQueen’s parent company Kering, described Burton’s work as “instrumental” to Lee McQueen’s success.
“She kept and continued Lee’s heritage, attention to detail and unique vision, while adding her own personal, highly creative touch,” he added.
In her statement on Monday, Burton acknowledged her colleagues, including the late McQueen. It is unconfirmed what she intends to do next – she lives in London and is married to photographer David Burton, with whom she has three daughters, twins Cecilia and Elizabeth, and a younger daughter, Romilly.
“Above all I want to thank Lee Alexander McQueen,” she said. “He taught me so much and I am eternally grateful to him. I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”
The Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte wore Sarah Burton designs to the King’s coronation in May.Credit: Getty
Burton’s successor is yet to be announced – whether Pinault intends to launch an unknown talent from obscurity, or to hire a celebrity name (as rivals at the LVMH group did when hiring Pharrell Williams to design Louis Vuitton menswear) remains to be seen. Certainly, no successor could boast the closeness to the late McQueen that Burton did, and they will likely need to work hard to retain access to the Princess of Wales.
Burton’s final show for the brand will be held during Paris Fashion Week, on September 30.
The Telegraph UK
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