Alexander McQueen

The name Alexander McQueen has been firmly cemented in the mind of the fashion world as one of the most provocative and laudable fashion designers.
It was this boundary-pushing impulse that became a hallmark of the McQueen name, changing the course of clothing history and inspiring countless others to follow his path.
Throughout his 18 year career, McQueen disrupted the fashion world with his unique and subversive collections, which stretched preceding definitions, and blurred the line between the domain of fashion and the art world.
Alexander McQueen
Born on 17 March
lee's Education
McQueen had a background in tailoring before he studied fashion and embarked on a career as a designer. Aged 16 he took a course in tailoring at Newham College and went on to serve an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, before joining Gieves & Hawkes as a pattern cutter. After Saville Row, he worked briefly for the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans.
When he was 20, he worked for Koji Tatsuno, and then Romeo Gigli in Milan before returning to London to go to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
Newham College
Gieves & Hawkes
Anderson & Sheppard
Rosetta Art Centre
Angels and Bermans
Koji Tatsuno
Romeo Gigli
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims
first collection
McQueen’s dark approach to design was evident from the very earliest stages of his career. His Central Saint Martins MA graduation collection, which debuted in 1992, was inspired by Jack the Ripper – the serial killer who preyed on and murdered prostitutes during the 1880s.
Each garment in this collection had a lock of the designer’s hair encased between two layers of acrylic, paying homage to the Victorian custom of exchanging hair with lovers – many people would buy hair from prostitutes rather than taking it from their own heads.
This collection was bought in its entirety by influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow.
Through these early days, Isabella Blow continued to pave the way for McQueen using her unique style and contacts to help him. She was in many ways his mentor, which grew into a close friendship.

Blow was said to have persuaded McQueen to use his middle name Alexander when he subsequently launched his fashion career.

how lee became Alexander McQueen?
Alexander McQueen brand was founded by Lee Alexander McQueen in 1992.
The house's early collections developed its reputation for controversy and shock tactics.
Throughout the 90s, Alexander McQueen carved a reputation as one of fashion’s most controversial visionaries.

McQueen’s shows were often fashion’s equivalent of a psychological thriller – dark, intense and twisted. Yet, often they were also eye-wateringly romantic and brazenly sexual – weaving heavy ideas into exquisitely cut garments presented in theatrical gestures.
l'enfant terrible, or the hooligan of English Fashion
Dante was the show that bolstered McQueen’s career and catapulted him to international acclaim. When he did that show, suddenly people could see his potential, because it was beautifully done.
1992 Graduate Collection – Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims
Autumn/Winter 1993 – Taxi Driver
Spring/Summer 1994 – Nihilism
Autumn/Winter 1994 – Banshee
Spring/Summer 1995 – The Birds
Autumn/Winter 1995 – Highland Rape
Spring/Summer 1996 – The Hunger
Autumn/Winter 1996 – Dante
McQueen became head designer of Givenchy, a tenure he held from 1996 to 2001, all the while amassing funds and making plans for his own label.
Storming London Fashion Week, McQueen had eight collections before the appointment. He was known as fashion’s “yob”, so the papers relished holding him to Mr Givenchy, “a white-coated couturier who made grand frocks for rich ladies; now his fashion house is led by an East End fat boy with a thing about buttocks” said fashion critics.
“It's doubtful that he is the man to save the house of Givenchy”
“Total disaster… I suffer when I see what’s happening at my old house.”
By the beginning of 1999, Mr Givenchy himself slammed McQueen:
The pressure took its toll. Four collections on top of his own. And Lee really cared what people wrote about him. Did that early onslaught of critique derail his confidence? For sure.

At the turn of the millennium, McQueen's shows for his lable became increasingly extravagant performance artworks. Robotic paint-shooting arms, stages that burst into flames; the designer thrilled on eliciting a strong response from onlookers and critics (both the good and the bad)
“Givenchy’s Ready-to-Wear lived in the shadow of McQueen’s own, back home.”
Models rotated on plinths like fragile music-box dolls. The finale was the most arresting of any McQueen show yet. Former ballerina Shalom Harlow stood centre stage between two industrial robots, which appeared to interact with her in a gentle dance before turning predator and firing sprays of black and acid-yellow paint at her pure white trapeze dress.
Spring/Summer 1997 – Bellmer La Poupee
Autumn/Winter 1997 – It's A Jungle Out There
Spring/Summer 1998 – Untitled (Originally The Golden Shower)
Autumn/Winter 1998 – Joan
Spring/Summer 1999 – No. 13
Autumn/Winter 1999 – The Overlook
Spring/Summer 2000 – Eye
Autumn/Winter 2000 – Eshu
The sequence, inspired by a Rebecca Horn installation High Moon (1991), was perhaps intended as a counterpoint to William Morris’s anti-industrial ethic, provoking comment on the interaction between man and machine at the turn of the twenty-first century.
In December 2000 it was announced:

Before his contract with Givenchy had finished, McQueen signed a deal with Givenchy's rival Gucci, daring Givenchy to fire him. His final two collections for Givenchy were shown behind closed doors.

McQueen had sold 51% of his label to Gucci
McQueen entered Givenchy as a fresh-faced emerging British designer, but left with new skills from the ateliers’ petit mains, with capital, and with an internationally renowned name.
Deal with Gucci allowed McQueen to expand his own Alexander McQueen label.
Between 2000 and 2010, McQueen opened stores in London, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Milan.
But Lee was suffered of depression and body issues.

McQueen’s life was like an onion, and you have to peel away the layers to get to the center; it’s a process that can sting and bring tears. There was the loneliness. Then there was his well-known history with drugs, especially cocaine. He was open about his substance abuse.

Since this period friends frequently refer him as “darkness”. McQueen lost some part of himself as he ascended in fame.
His state of mind always portrayed within his body of work.

One of McQueen's most celebrated and dramatic catwalk shows was his 2001 Spring/Summer collection. It was a direct statement to the audience regarding Lee McQueen’s feelings about the societal view of beauty.

‘If you want to
know me, look at my work.'
Voss, like so many of McQueen’s collections, harnessed multiple, disparate themes which coalesced into the designer’s unique vision of beauty.
Spring/Summer 2001 – Voss
Autumn/Winter 2001 – What A Merry-Go-Round
Spring/Summer 2002 – The Dance of The Twisted Bull
Autumn/Winter 2002 – Supercalifragilistic
Spring/Summer 2003 – Irere
Autumn/Winter 2003 – Scanners
Spring/Summer 2004 – Deliverance
Autumn/Winter 2004 – Pantheon ad Luce
Spring/Summer 2005 – It's Only a Game
Autumn/Winter 2005 – The Man Who Knew Too Much
Spring/Summer 2006 – Neptune
Autumn/Winter 2006 – The Widows of Culloden
Spring/Summer 2007 – Sarabande
Autumn/Winter 2007 – In Memory of Elizabeth Howe, Salem
Spring/Summer 2008 – La Dame Bleue
Autumn/Winter 2008 – The Girl Who Lived in the Tree
Spring/Summer 2009 – Natural Dis-tinction Un-natural Selection
McQueen produced even more interesting spectacles after leaving Givenchy, and it could easily be said behind each collection was a profound and thoroughly thought-through concept.
One of the defining features of Alexander McQueen's collections was their far-reaching historicism.

McQueen was particularly inspired by the 19th century, drawing frequently on Victorian Gothic. Radical re-presentations of historical narratives continued throughout his career.
Angels & Demons, AW2010
Sarabande, SS 2007
The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, AW2008
The Widows of Culloden, AW2006
Plato's Atlantis, SS 2010
Irere, SS 2003
La Dame Bleue , SS 2008
It's only game, SS 2005
McQueen's exploration of polarities – man versus machine, or nature versus technology – was a recurring theme in his work. His collections often featured fashions that took their forms and raw materials from the natural world.
All of this was centered on the juxtaposition of extreme glamour vs. trash. In fact, the centerpiece for the runway was a large pile of ‘trash’, composed of pieces from Lee’s earlier runway collections, spray-painted black.

“I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.”
Autumn/Winter 2009 – The Horn of Plenty
Spring/Summer 2010 – Plato's Atlantis
Autumn/Winter 2010 – Angels & Demons
Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/Winter show in 2009, titled “The Horn of Plenty”, was nothing short of a masterpiece. A self-aware fashion retrospective, McQueen layered the history of his own design legacy with classic couture designs famous in the fashion world, such as the Christian Dior New Look houndstooth, and Chanel tweed.

McQueen’s tragic suicide in February 2010 left the world in shock, but he left behind a fascinating body of work from a career that spanned more than two decades. This British designer’s collections continue to be questioned, picked apart, and analysed in desperate attempts to better understand and fully appreciate his untamed imagination.

mcqueen legacy
Alexander McQueen was one of the greatest designers that ever existed, who shaped the meaning of contemporary fashion with outlandish designs in theatrical shows. His creativity had no bounds and he was as fearless in his studio as in his life.

Alexander McQueen’s importance in fashion history resides not only on his controversial and extravagant collections, but in his own discourse of fashion: how it can be a political space and language that speaks through the body in the runway space.

He is more than just a fashion designer – he was one of the major figures in British culture.