Riders in the storm: Seán McGirr’s debut for Alexander McQueen Autumn-Winter 2024

McGirr presented his debut collection in an old train station on the outskirts of Paris, on the most rainy day of Paris fashion week: thus, the acid yellow/green blankets placed on every seat for guests to warm up. In his show notes, the Irish designer said that he wanted his first collection to be “A rough opulence. Revealing the animal within”. Backstage, McGirr explained that since it was his first outing for Alexander McQueen, and he feels like a outsider, he wanted to focus on Lee’s very first collections like “Banshee” (AW94) “The Birds” (SS95) from the 90s, when the late designer felt like an outsider himself. “What I like about it is that it’s all very simple, but it’s slightly twisted. It’s about creating with whatever you have. Lee was taking classic elements like jackets and twisting it and crushing it and seeing what happens”. So there was definitely a DIY feeling to the collection, and the energy of the London youth. Yes, McGirr is here to shake up the things, and so he did! 

Seán McGirr opened his collection with a distorted draped dress in black laminated jersey referencing the famous clingfilm dress from “The Birds”, the model clutched her hands at the chest. Tonight, it was all about characters of London that you don’t know yet, but would love to meet. Then, there were leather trenches and detective hats, and a good dose of McQueen’s references - think gowns with animal prints, acid colors, rose accessories and the famed skull motif. The silhouettes were taken to the extreme: big chunky knits with collars up above the head (hello, Martin Margiela!) were one of the collection’s highlights. There were also some unexpected couture techniques: a minidress with smashed chandelier and red and orange bicycle reflector embroidery, as if made from the objects found after a car crash. And the final three looks, the car dresses, made from steel, colored like a yellow Ferrari, a cobalt blue Aston Martin and a black Tesla. McGirr explained backstage that his father is a mechanic, but it’s not just an homage to a family member, more of a trip down the memory lane: in his childhood they were always discussing cars and their design at home, and this is how he found out he needs to create shapes and forms for a living.


When later this evening at Guido Palau’s celebration of his new haircare line for Zara I crossed paths with Katy England’s family (the stylist was one of Lee’s closest friends), they all looked a bit puzzled. Everybody around us was talking about McGirr’s debut saying that it’s a bit disappointing. Too many ideas, but where is the vision? Could it have been different? What if these shoes are just too big to fit? Well, McGirr’s response to criticism is quite clear, he quotes Lee McQueen who used to say after every failure: “I’d rather people hated what I do than not give a shit about it”. And that’s what makes this particular designer a good fit for the house of Lee McQueen. 

The debut collection of Seán McGirr for Alexander McQueen, filled with references to the great designer’s legacy and his successor’s past, sparked a storm of interest, both positive and negative. But then it’s only the beginning.It’s not easy to fill the shoes of a great designer. Especially if the person in question is the great Lee McQueen, praised by editors, buyers, students and generations of fashion enthusiasts. And coming just after former creative director Sarah Burton, Lee’s beloved right-hand who nurtured his legacy since his death in 2010, doesn’t make the tak any easier. The 35-year-old, Dublin-born Seán McGirr joined the iconic house just a few months ago - before he worked for Jonathan W. Anderson on his namesake label as the head of design, but also on his collaborations with the Japanese mass market giant Uniqlo. He has a stint at Dries Van Noten on his resume, as well. Impressive.