One of the key motifs of Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2022 show, which debuted in London inside a giant bubble, was the crystal raindrop embroidery — fine embellishments on gowns, blazers and skirts, with beadwork, sequins, and crystals threaded delicately across shoulders, waists, torsos, and hems, entirely by hand.

The Sarah Burton signature draws on the rooftop scenery from the Alexander McQueen London atelier: glimmers of sunlight give way to darkened shards of storm, reflected in the gradient hues of the Spring 2022 color palette. A pillar in the vocabulary of Alexander McQueen, the embroidery keeps in-line with the duality of design, walking the tightrope between dainty and durable.

The embroidery has become a red carpet showstopper, too, going viral on the likes of Salma Hayek-Pinault, Kaia Gerber, and Ariana De Bose, who have been lensed in variations of Spring 2022 designs. Zendaya famously wore an Alexander McQueen crystal raindrop web-embroidered blazer for Spider Man: No Way Home press, and Lady Gaga stepped out for House of Gucci press in a McQueen set littered with intricate, fastidious crystal embroidery.

Below, Alexander McQueen gives PAPER a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the crystal raindrop embroidery for Spring 2022, using beads, sequin shards, and crystals.

Before pieces are finished, paper scraps are pinned on toiles to construct the exact placement of every thread of embroidery on the final garments. Alexander McQueen uses 3D paper versions to mimic the effect of crystal raindrop embroidery on thigh-high boots.

Once perfected, the final paper artwork is pasted onto a toile, before being embroidered by hand. Gradually, the paper embroidery artwork is replaced by the real thing.

Various samples of embroidery are fitted onto a toile at the Alexander McQueen London atelier; attention to detail and flawless technique are essential to reach runway perfection. During fittings, each crystal raindrop embroidery is applied to every garment by hand.

Entire panels of chandelier embroidery are fitted and placed on the final garments, and crystals are placed onto tulle cut by hand before being hand-embroidered on the final garment. For the black wool tuxedo jacket seen on Lady Gaga, crystal chandelier embroideries had to be hand-stitched onto satin lapels with a specific curve needle.

Even for accessories — including boots and shoes — every piece of embroidery is done by hand, diligently following the paper artwork, as with ready-to-wear.

Photos courtesy of Alexander McQueen