“Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution.” If there was only one bad boy of fashion, then Lee Alexander McQueen is the James Dean of the fashion universe. Theatrical, elegant, with plenty of edge of the side, McQueen’s designs weaved an intricate tale of dark romance and successfully put emotion back on centre stage. His innate flair for the dramatic enabled him with his eponymous label to forever change the course of fashion history, adding glamour and freedom of expression. This heady cocktail resulted in a brand that continuous to surprise, reminding us why we fell in love with fashion in the first place. Like a glass that never goes empty; McQueen leaves us wanting more.
The London born lad dropped out at the age of 16 and found work on Savile Row. First at Anderson and Shephard Tailors and then with Gieves and Hawkes. After mastering the technical art of constructing clothing, McQueen had bigger plans. He started working with theatrical costume designs Angels and Bermans. This stint would later mould the designer’s signature style.
At the age of 20, he worked for designer Koji Tatsuno, someone whose roots were also in British tailoring. A short year later, McQueen travelled to Milan and worked as Romeo Gigli’s design assistant. After returning to London, he completed a Masters degree in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martin’s. In 1992, McQueen showed his M.A. Collection. The Jack the Ripper inspired collection was notably bought entirely by London stylist, Isabella Blow.
Four years out of design school, McQueen became Chief Designer of French haute couture house, Givenchy. Despite it being a turbulent time in the designer’s life, he won British Designer of the Year in 1996, 1997, and 2001 during his tenure at Givenchy. In 2000, Gucci provided the capital for the designer to expand his business. He left the haute couture house in March of 2001 for his own.
McQueen’s collections ranged from women’s ready to wear, men’s ready-to-wear, accessories, eyewear and fragrances. In 2003, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) declared McQueen as International Designer of the Year. The Queen of England added icing on the cake and honoured the designer as A Most Excellent Commander of the British Empire and he received another British Designer of the Year award. He also was recognized as GQ’s Menswear Designer of the Year in 2007. McQueen went on to open stores in Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York and Milan.
MCQ X DAMIEN HIRST
Symmetry manifests itself here with the Damien Hirst and McQueen collaboration. This was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the iconic skull scarf. Diggin in to nature, McQueen utilized the strong reference to nature from Hirst’s Entomology series featuring bugs, spiders, butterflies and other insects. The collaboration is home to 30 designs that form kaleidoscopic geometric shapes that form McQueen’s signature skull design.
MCQ X FERGADELIC
Tattoos and fashion have joined forces before but nothing up to that time can compare to the two bespoke designs called Scarred McQ and Frankenman. This collaboration saw a talented duo at the helm, McQ by Alexander McQueen and London-based tattooist and commercial artist Fergadelic (Fergus Purcell). The result is contemporary (80s inspired) graphics that were made available in both jersey and knit versions.
MCQ X MICHEAL CLARK, BLADE OF LIGHT
Step into the light with this explosive, creative collaboration by Michael Clark and Alexander McQueen. The Blade of Light project featured Clark’s choreography with dancers in McQueen’s Depression-era inspired Spring/Summer 2004 collection. The graceful movements and elegant athletic concepts was set up for a Numero magazine shoot.
MCQ X PUMA
At first glance, this seems like a clash of titans. A sports lifestyle brand and an haute couture genius may not seem like a good match but Puma and Alexander McQueen made it work. The fusion of high fashion and sportswear resulted in a collection with a “rebellious spirit”, drawing from Puma’s history in athletics and features bold cultural references.
MCQ X MAC COSMETICS
McQueen brushes up on his beauty speak for this project with MAC Cosmetics. Inspired by the Egyptians, Alexander McQueen brought his catwalk look to the masses with a product line based on his 2007- 2008 autumn/winter look. If rock fright-chic is your perfect shade then this is the blend for you. Expect nude lips, block coloured eye shadow and expert flicks of eyeliner for makeup with impact.
WORLD OF ALEXANDER, SAVAGE BEAUTY
“I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette of a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” The designer continued to challenge the convention of fashion with a powerful aesthetic appreciation of beauty. Thus, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York started its Savage Beauty exhibition in commemoration of the designer’s illustrious career (1969 – 2010). The heaven sent gowns, dark Poe inspired pieces rich with romanticism and magnificent themes filled every corner of the arrestingly displayed exhibition.
The razor clam shell-encrusted dress, a spine corset, red butterfly headpiece, golden feather dress, dresses from McQueen’s The Girl Who Lived in the Tree collection, his first ‘Bumster’ trousers, a rotating robot paint spray dress and looks from Plato’s Atlantis are all sights to behold at the Savage Beauty exhibition. The pièce de résistance is of course the cabinet of curiosities. As the name suggests, its home to 120 clothing pieces and accessories. This includes collaborative efforts with Shaun Leane and Phillip Treacy. Another eagerly anticipated attraction was the Kate Moss hologram that made its first appearance in his autumn/winter 2006 show.
In his lifetime, Alexander McQueen not only shook the foundation of fashion, he forever changed its course. A true visionary and a breath of fresh air, the Alexander McQueen name has successfully broken boundaries and paved the way for bright, talented fashion innovators to come. “It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.”