It was February 11, 2010 I was attending NYC Fashion Week when I heard the news of McQueen’s passing. All those in the industry and his following mourned his suicide. He was fashions brightest light and consummate showmen (WWD-A True Master) As the snow fell in the city his death cast a shadow of sadness which could be felt with each falling flake. Upon returning to the Standard Hotel I drove by his boutique in the meatpacking district where fans had placed flowers and candles in front. Even as the world reacted with an outpouring of grief, at the time I believe we truly did not understand the loss the fashion industry was experiencing.
Alexander McQueen boutique in New York City
Jean Paul Gaultier said “His story was one of success and talent, but that may not be enough to keep you alive. I am really saddened by Lee’s passing on a human level, but also on the artistic one.” “A great talent has left us and we will miss him and everything that he has done for fashion.” (WWD-A True Master)
Alexander McQueen with friend Isabella Blow
Son of a taxi cab driver he dropped out of school at age 16 and went to work on Savile Row as a cutter and tailor at : Anderson & Sheppar, Gieves & Hakes and then Romeo Gigli. McQueen finished his education and graduated in 1994 with a Master’s degree in fashion design from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Isabella Blow legendary fashion guru discovered Alexander and purchased his entire graduating collection, which helped him make industry connections.
Alexander McQueen with Sarah Jessica Parker at the Met Gala in 2006
His talent attracted the attention of some of the biggest names in luxury fashion. In 1996 at age 27 he was hired by Bernard Arnault chairmen of LVMH to awaken Givenchy (one of the most storied names in French Fashion) He succeeded John Galliano who was then shifted to Christian Dior.
Givenchy dress designed by Alexander McQueen for Fall/Winter 2000
McQueen spent 5 years with Givenchy but had a falling out with Bernard Arnault of LVMH. It was a complicated time as Alexander was really raw, gusty, outrageous and his manner was wild, said Marion Greenburg who represented Givenchy. McQueen had a tough time and he would articulate his discontent with large corporations and commercial fashion. Although the experience helped him grow as an artist the exposure to the craftsmanship of French Couture Atelier became visible in his RTW shows resembling couture in workmanship and price.
Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2001
In 2000 LVMH’s rival Gucci Group, then led by Domenico De Sole and Tom Ford bought 51 percent of McQueen’s company. This would set the stage for expansion boutiques, secondary line McQ and collaborations with other brands including Puma and Samsonite.
Logo for McQ
His honors spanned from receiving a CFDA Award for Best International designer of the year in 2003, to winning the British Fashion Award’s designer of the year four times over and in 2004 he won for Men’s Wear Designer. He was also honored by Queen Elizabeth for his services to the fashion industry.
Alexander McQueen with Prince Charles accepting his Designer of the Year Award in 2001
During an interview in 2006 McQueen said “I am mad in the front of my mind, business in the back of my mind” He was very proud of the fact he never went bankrupt and his clothes were not just showmanship but people purchased and wore them. His company beat a 2007 break-even deadline poised by president and CEO of Gucci group Robert Polet. Although he was never able to make the jump into the big leagues financially. His firm remained a small part of Gucci group.
Alexander McQueen Spring 2010
McQueen was quoted in 2009 saying, “Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment, I wasn’t born to give you a twin set an pearls.”
I was truly sadden by Alexander McQueen’s passing he was one of the greatest talents of my generation. His ability to captivate and deliver an artistic, social, and political message through fashion was a gift the world will treasure!