Alexander McQueen, dubbed the bad boy of the fashion industry for his flamboyant and sometimes shocking runway shows, was discovered hanged at his home in Mayfair on 11th February 2010. It was reported that he had been depressed since the death of his mother whose funeral was to be held the following day. McQueen had announced on Twitter that he was finding it hard to cope with her death. He had left a note, the contents of which have never been disclosed.
Lee Alexander McQueen was born on 17th March 1969, the youngest of of a family of six children. His father, Ronald was a taxi driver and his mother, Joyce, a Social Science teacher. He announced his intention of becoming a fashion designer when he was very young and made dresses for his three sisters.
Leaving school at 16 with one O-level in art, McQueen then served an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard. Among his clients in Savile Row were Prince Charles and Mikhail Gorbachev. He moved on to Gieves & Hawkes, then Angel and Bermans garnering skills which served him well and became the bedrock of his stylish tailoring which were to become his hallmark.
After working in Milan for Romeo Gigli McQueen came back to London and in 1994 applied to the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design to work as a tutor in pattern cutting. The Head of the Masters’ course, impressed by his portfolio, persuaded McQueen to enrol as a student and when he eventually graduated his entire collection was bought for £5,000 by Isabella Blow, magazine editor, muse of flamboyant hat designer Philip Treacy, and style icon. She persuaded McQueen to drop his first name and to launch his career as Alexander McQueen.
He joined the mainstream when he succeeded John Galliano at Givenchy in 1996 where he remained until 2001 when he decided to concentrate on his own label. This proved successful and now McQueen collections are sold in over 39 countries.
McQueen’s early shows relied heavily on the shock factor and featured the forerunners to the ‘low rise’ jeans trend, “bumsters.” He also used skulls as a favoured motif and this became a fashion must with celebrities and was replicated worldwide. He created silhouettes which added a sense of fantasy and rebellion to fashion and was one of the earliest designers to use Indian models in London.
His army of celebrity followers include Nicole Kidman, Bjork, Kate Moss, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katie Holmes, Cate Blanchett and Lady GaGa who dedicated her three Brit awards to the designer.
McQueen received the following awards for his achievements: British Designer of the Year 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, International Designer of the Year – The Council of Fashion Designer’s of America (CFDA) in 2003, Commander of The British Empire (CBE) in 2003, and the Fashion and Grooming Awards – Fashion Director’s Award 2007 for McQ.
The six-day London Fashion Week opening was sombre and Harold Tillman, Chairman of the London Fashion Council, led with a minute’s silence as a mark of respect. Mr Tillman paid tribute to the designer, his impact on the industry, his genius and his flamboyance. He will be sadly missed but never forgotten.