British designer, Alexander McQueen, was found dead in his London home today. The cause of death was an apparent suicide. He was 40 years old. His death comes as a shock to the fashion community, and designers and their staff are reeling at the news; so close to London and Paris fashion week.
While the Internet is alive with speculation about how and why he supposedly killed himself, and how his line is going to run during two very important fashion dates, this article is going to take a different approach. Alexander McQueen was an inspiration to me. His edgy and often controversial designs inspired me to get into this crazy fashion world, and this business will not be the same without him.
McQueen was born in 1969 to a blue collar London family. He was the youngest of six, and began sewing garments for his older sisters at a young age. He is noted for his apprenticeship on Savile Row and his education at Central Saint Martins in London, which subsequently led to his entire senior collection being purchased by the famous stylist, Isabella Blow. In the mid 90s, he worked with John Galliano in Paris at Givenchy. His first show under his own name came at the turn of the century, and the fashion game hasn't been the same since. He most notably had a runway show that was inspired by rape, and other subsequent shows pushed the envelope just as hard. This is my tribute to some of my favorite men's and women's looks that this genius created. To see all of the looks, please check out the slide show at the end of this article.
McQueen's Fall 2009 men's line was breathtaking. His inspiration was turn of the century Dandy-ism to the extreme. His line featured everything from top hats to sleek walking canes. The collection was reminiscent of a crowd waiting to enter an opera house in the late 19th century. His Pre-Fall 2009 women's line was in perfect sync with his men's collection.
In the Spring 2007 men's collection, McQueen used a softer color palette than usual and created a feeling of playful youth with his finely tailored cuts of his suits.
His Fall 2008 women's collection was dark and beautiful. In the center of the runway stood a larger than life tree constructed out of fabric and lights. The models traipsed around the tree in cinched asymmetrical dresses covered with lace appliques. McQueen said the collection was inspired by his imaginative creation of an ice queen that lived in the Forrest.
His Spring 2004 women's collection was shown at a famous Paris ballroom. In lieu of this location, McQueen had dancers twirling down the runway, spinning and bending in his amazing creations, such as the embroidered dress with the ostrich feather skirt. This show marked the first menswear looks for Alexander McQueen. He debuted his first men's collection in the Spring of 2005.
McQueen chose military silhouettes for his debuted menswear line. Most of the looks were constructed out of olive greens and khaki. A few of the models sported hats that closely resembled those worn by the army. In the Fall of that year, he kept his men's designs serious, and it was obvious that his time on Savile Row heavily influenced his designs. Always the showman, McQueen had abstract face paintings on his models that were reminiscent of clown make-up.
When creating the mood for a show, nothing was lost on Alexander McQueen. His design story ran through everything from the look of the runway to the over-the-top hair and make-up of his models. His Fall 2009 women's collection featured beautifully crafted jackets and dresses,some of which were constructed out of feathers and nothing more. One model even strolled down the runway wearing an open umbrella on her head. The seriousness of the looks were stressed heavily through the makeup of the models. Their faces were painted a ghostly white, and their lips were outlined in vibrant red or ghastly black. The overall effect was not only artistic, but somewhat disturbing as well.
His latest women's collection for Spring 2010 was bright and well structured. Lady Gaga wore an outfit and shoes designed by him for her "Bad Romance" video, and he returned the favor in kind by starting the show with a one of a kind remix of the song. Gaga was so impressed, it is rumored, that she worked with him to create the outfit she wore during her opening number at the 2009 Grammy's.
Alexander McQueen knew how to stir the innards of those who saw his work. It was never safe, and even in times when his personal life effected his work, even his "toned down" looks caused a hushed ruckus. While other designers have taken his queue to create shows that are just as much art as they are fashion, John Galliano is the only designer who even begins to rival that of Alexander McQueen. He was invaluable to this industry, and through his artistic interpretations of fashion, he kept the rest of us on our toes. He will be sorely missed.