Alexander McQueen was an English designer known for his dramatic and provocative style. Born in London in 1969, Lee Alexander McQueen found his calling early in life. He studied art in high school and went on to take several courses in tailoring, eventually landing an apprenticeship on Savile Row, a Central London street known for housing many bespoke tailoring shops. During his time there he worked with Anderson & Shepperd as well as Gieves & Hawkes. He later worked for theatrical costume designer Angels and Bermans, who were located on the same street.
While serving his apprenticeships on Savile Row, the young McQueen began to make a name for himself as an expert tailor and his talents got him a spot in an MA fashion course at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He eventually enrolled in the school full-time after some encouragement from the head of the Master’s course at St. Martins. McQueen graduated in 1992 with an MA in fashion design. He met famous fashion stylist Isabella Blow, who would play a pivotal role in his career. McQueen’s graduation collection for his master’s program was inspired by Jack the Ripper, the infamous English serial killer. It married the individuality of tailored looks with the dramatic flair of Victorian theatrical costumes. His abilities impressed Blow so much that she bought the entirety of his collection. Isabella Blow became a mentor to him and encouraged him to go by the name Alexander.
McQueen, then an emerging designer, moved to Hoxton in London with dreams of making it big in fashion. He created his second collection there and eventually met Katy England, who would become his “right-hand woman” in fashion. As the 1990s progressed, McQueen’s career took off. He worked with many famous entertainers, honing his unique, and often controversial style. He even designed a topless dress for the singer Bjork to wear in her music video “Pagan Poetry”. He never shied from pushing his designs to the edge, earning him the titles of “L’Enfant terrible” and “the hooligan of English fashion”. McQueen is probably most notable for creating the “bumster”, a low-rise pant that rested below the hips, an iconic style that was popularized in the early 2000s with teenagers and young women.
McQueen would eventually go on to be appointed as chief designer for the fashion giant Givenchy. Despite this incredible appointment, Givenchy was too conventional for McQueen’s taste. He liked to push the envelope, to shock and awe and he felt that Givenchy stifled his ability to create fashion that was true to his vision. Despite his mixed feelings for the couture fashion house, he went on to win British Designer of the Year three times while working under their direction.
McQueen produced many spectacular runway shows that tested the limits of his creativity. He featured a nude model in a glass box filled with moths, a model and amputee with beautifully carved wooden legs, and even a hologram of famous model Kate Moss. McQueen’s couture looks were inspired by Gothic architecture and his Celtic ancestral roots. He was also captivated by traditional Japanese and Latin American clothing. McQueen himself dressed out of the ordinary for a fashion designer, often wearing little more than a plain plaid shirt and jeans. McQueen’s designs went on to help define the early 2000’s in terms of style and McQueen eventually created his own brand, named Alexander McQueen.
On February 11, 2010, Alexander McQueen, fashion designer, artist, and icon, was found dead in his Mayfair, London home as a result of suicide. McQueen had been suffering from anxiety and depressive disorder for many years and struggled with addiction and suicidal thoughts, eventually taking his own life soon after the death of his mother. Alexander McQueen was no doubt a visionary in his own right changing the way that the world views fashion and creativity.