Sarah Burton & the Beetles of the Emerald Isle

Post by Aoife

The words beetle (well, Beatle) and fashion designer are most often uttered within the same breath as Stella McCartney and her dear dad Paul. But since Sarah Burton’s latest show for Alexander McQueen, on the penultimate day of Paris Fashion Week, she will now be reverently associated with beetling, a 300 year old method of pounding linen or cotton fabric with potato starch in order to give a flat, lustrous effect associated primarily with Northern Ireland. 

Sarah Burton takes her team on biannual research trips, which is where and when they stumbled upon the beetling technique. As well as working with linen from Northern Ireland, she upcycled lace, organza and tulle from previous seasons, marking the charge by prominent designers to advocate sustainabilty and the conscious use of materials. Burton’s Spring 2020 show was reportedly the triumph of the season, waking up a flagging crowd, fatigued by a month of hit and miss fashion across four cities, and bringing it to a jubilant close.




Another cool point of note is the music of choice; an orchestra played a piece composed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sister Isobel!



Burton integrated designs from students of Central Saint Martin’s onto some of the pieces, and got the whole team, including non-design members of the workforce, to stitch over them: she said “I love the idea of people having the time to make things together, the time to meet and talk together, the time to reconnect with the world.”



Arguably the most memorable look of the show was the pink ruffled flower number worn by Kaia Gerber. She may be the model of the moment but it’s the dress that speaks for itself.


© Photos: Alessandro Lucioni /

Burton’s ethos towards community spirit, environmental concerns and the championing of rising talent is so admirable, and it’s no surprise that what goes around comes around in terms of what she gains back from her efforts. Thanks to her Northern Ireland is in the spotlight, shining a light on its significance within Britain, Ireland and the wider world. A little nugget to chew on for those in power who need to, perhaps.

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