Getting Ready With Anna Shay and Alexander McQueen

Getting Ready With Anna Shay and Alexander McQueen

Story by Mario Abad / Photography by Matt Grubb

If you binged the first season of Bling Empire on Netflix, you'll know that loyalty is incredibly important to Anna Shay, the soft-spoken half-Russian-half-Japanese heiress who has little time for people's bullshit.

That loyalty is also evident when it comes Shay's relationships in the fashion world. As a VIC (Very Important Client) for fashion houses like Valentino and jewelers like Boucheron, brands roll out the red carpet for her every chance they get — and Shay shows her appreciation by hosting dinners and private gatherings for designers at her home.

Another brand she's loyal to is Alexander McQueen, whose runway shows in Paris she would frequently attend, as well as events at the Cannes Film Festival organized by McQueen's parent company Kering. She's been collecting the brand's pieces for many years and now possesses an archive that could rival any fashion museum.

"The way I feel about fashion is best summed up by this quote by Alexander McQueen himself: 'For me, what I do is an artistic expression which is channeled through me. Fashion is just the medium,'" Shay says. She also cites her mother as a big influence, who instilled in her values of individuality and style over fashion.

On March 15, Alexander McQueen held its first runway show in New York since 1999. There were two showtimes, one at 6 PM and one at 8 PM — the first slot for press and the latter for VICs, high-spending supporters and top clients. Shay, who hadn't been to a McQueen show in years due to the pandemic, flew in from Beverly Hills for the special occasion.

Before she took off for the show, held in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, PAPER caught up with Shay at the Presidential Suite at the Carlyle Hotel for a photoshoot where she wore looks from her personal Alexander McQueen collection. (We also stopped by Central Park to "find the horses," per Shay's request.)

On building her Alexander McQueen collection over the years:

I have been fortunate to be able to acquire so many stunning pieces, all relevant in their own way. However, I truly fell in love with the house after the show in Paris about seven years ago.

On her most prized/cherished Alexander McQueen looks:

It's really impossible to pick just one or two pieces: I love the floral dripping skull scarves, combat boots, leather and lace men's-inspired coats and all the embellished and romantic gowns. The sneakers are also amazing.

On what she wore to the Alexander McQueen Fall 2022 show:

My show look was an embellished ruffle detail lily pad gown in silvered grey from the 2021 Anemones collection — the literal interpretation of floating water lilies.

On the things that draw her most to the brand:

Things that draw me to the brand are the "touch of hand " you see throughout all the pieces. As a creative person, the artistry and craftsmanship are important factors for me. Also the opposing elements each piece. Strength and fragility, romance and rebellion. A person with vision these clothes enhance you.

On whether she's met creative director Sarah Burton yet:

I've yet to meet Sarah, and look forward to meeting her. I will say that I certainly love her touching what she adds to the unique nature of McQueen. She puts her own stamp on it, yet doing so with respect to the house.

On the differences between Sarah's work and Lee McQueen's collections:

I think it is important not to compare and contrast the work of Sarah Burton and that of Lee McQueen. It is one house. He created the brand and its tortured artistic appeal. Sarah has continued that legacy, perhaps softening it for the modern woman.

On her McQueen buying habits:

I have purchased worldwide, probably most notably at the Saint Honore boutique in Paris; the Beaux Arts location in Monaco when I'm there for Cannes and, of course, Rodeo Drive.

On what she thought about the New York show:

It goes without saying that I absolutely loved the show. Mycelium... incredible!

Photography: Matt Grub
Fashion: Alexander McQueen