Fashion Legend: Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen has become a name that is synonymous with style and art.  Most famous for his work as chief designer at the French Haute Couture House Givenchy, his achievements in the fashion industry earned him four British Designer of the Year awards and a spot in one of Lady Gaga’s acceptance speeches.

Originally born Lee Alexander McQueen in March of 1969 in Lewisham, London, he was the youngest of six children.  It was at an extremely young age that McQueen started making dresses for his three sisters and announced his plan to become a fashion designer.  It was also at a very young age that McQueen said he realized he was gay, and after a rocky period his family accepted his sexuality.

At 16 he began an apprenticeship with tailors Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row before joining Gieves & Hawkes.  It was through these apprenticeships that McQueen learned the art of tailoring.

McQueen achieved success at a very young age.  While working on Savile Row, his client list included the likes of Prince Charles and at 20 he moved to Milan, Italy.

In 1994, McQueen moved back to London and applied to work as a pattern cutter tutor at Central Saints Martins College of Art and Design.  The Head of the Masters course recognized McQueen’s innate knack for design and tailoring and persuaded him to enroll as a student.  It was here that McQueen earned his masters degree in fashion design.  His graduation collection was bought in its entirety by fashion stylist, Isabella Blow, who also persuaded him to become known as Alexander (his middle name).

McQueen’s early runway collections earned him a reputation for being extremely controversial.  He used shock tactics and theatrical elements to make his shows edgy.  He was also known for his lavish sets.  He had a recreation of a shipwreck on the runway for his Spring 2003 collection.

It was McQueen’s “bumsters” pants that helped build the trend in low-rise jeans.   It was in 1996 when McQueen succeeded John Galliano as head designer for Givenchy.  Although he didn’t have a very successful run with Givenchy, he certainly did get the fashion world talking.  In 1998 McQueen featured a white cotton dress with spray paint all over it modeled by Aimee Mullins, a double leg amputee.  McQueen was said to call his contract with Givenchy “constraining” to his creativity.  The contract ended in 2001 and so did his run with this house.

McQueen went on to become one of the youngest fashion designers to win the title “British Designer of the Year,” (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003).  He was the first designer to participate in MAC’s promotion created by designers.  In 2007, McQueen had boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan and Las Vegas.  Celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lady Gaga have been spotted sporting McQueen’s designs.

Although very successful, McQueen was said to have been a very depressed soul.  On February 11, 2010, McQueen was found by his housekeeper hanging in his wardrobe at his home on Green Street in London.  He was pronounced dead at the scene just days before London Fashion Week and nine days after the death of his mother.

Although the police said that the death was not at all suspicious it was later determined by the Westminister Coroner’s Court that the death was due to asphyxiation and hanging.  His death was officially recorded as a suicide on April 28.

It was recorded that in addition to hanging himself with “his favorite brown belt,” McQueen had slashed wrists and there was significant amounts of cocaine, sleeping pills and tranquilizers in the blood samples taken after the death.

McQueen left a note at the scene that read, “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.”

Although he isn’t with us anymore, McQueen’s legend lives on through his designs and his fashion house that presented a collection in Paris during 2010 Fashion Week that was 80% unfinished by McQueen himself.  Fashion editors picked his final designs and the show was said to have been extremely hard to watch because it showed “his obsession with the afterlife.”

To shop Alexander McQueen visit his website at www.alexandermcqueen.com/

 

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