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Strong women are the backbone of Alexander McQueen. This season she appears in a hand-painted, corseted jacket and a spiral knit dress: modern clothes which have roots in the universe of Medieval heroines and legends.

Looking at Victorian and pre-Raphaelite prints and paintings, we went further, to examine real medieval armour and examples of protective chainmail undergarments.

For Spring/Summer 2005 two models representing Knight chess-pieces wore armour, imagined as a cross between US football kit and Samurai armour. The Japanese-inspired patterns of fish and waves were hand-painted at the studio.

The studio took a research trip to explore the countryside surrounding the Neolithic Avebury standing stones, Silbury hill, Avalon and West Kennet’s Long Barrow. These are ancient sites where battles, processions and rituals of female power can easily be imagined. The trip coincided with an intense flowering of wild flowers which inspired the hand-painting on this jacket.

Designing the jacket took many trials. In the first toiles, to keep the tough, armoured sense of the jacket, reinforced parts of real motocross jackets were cut up, collaged and moulded into the breastplate and elbows.

The technique for the engineered, slashed, spiral knit black ribbed dress was chainmail inspired and took numerous toiles to achieve. The complex, dynamic diagonal godet panelling was eventually linked together with lines of silver metal hooks and eyes.

Each flower was painted by hand, involving a group of artists. The scheme for the pattern jumped into focus when an antique 16th century embroidery depicting birds, flora and fauna was sourced by the textiles team.