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Remember the World is your Oyster
Bye for now
15 Feb 2010
Alexander McQueen CBE (16 March 1969 – 11 February 2010) aged 40 found dead through rumoured suicide at his London home in Mayfair is what the headline read (pictured on the left, courtesy of IrishTimes.com). It was surreal, almost a mistake and I thought it was something spun in the rumour mill that keeps these fashion designers in the gossip columns. I had to confirm it to be true and there it was on the Daily Mail website. I was so moved and as I write this post, I am still moved. Not least because his talent will no longer be laid bare in his extraordinary designs that those both in and out of the fashion world can celebrate. But, more so, because his spirit was so tormented by the losses of his mother and his patron, Isabella Blow that he knew no way out but to take his own life.
Born Lee Alexander McQueen to a Scottish taxi driver, Ronald and a social science teacher, Joyce; McQueen began honing his craft through an apprenticeship at Anderson & Sheppard, the bespoke tailors. The excellent tailoring seen in his work is often accredited to his time spent working at Savile Row, both at Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes.
A Central St Martins graduate, labelled as an exceptional talent by all his tutors including the then dean of the fashion and textile school, Jane Rapley. Isabella Blow, the influential fashion stylist who then went on to become his mentor and most importantly, his closest friend, bought his entire graduate collection in 1993. Her faith in McQueen’s artistry and work was a defining moment in the designer’s career. Soon after this, the fashion world’s love affair with the East London native began. In 1996, he was appointed Givenchy’s Chief Designer in Paris replacing John Galliano. However, his shock tactics stirred much controversy among France’s typically conservative fashion elite. In trying to mould his collections to please the French, his originality was suppressed and brilliance compromised. He was later quoted in calling his appointment at Givenchy as “the biggest mistake of my life”.
It wasn’t until Alexander McQueen launched his self-titled eponymous label, which Gucci bought a 51% stake in 2001, that one saw the designer truly, come into his own. With the absence of the founding creative director, it is rumoured that Gucci may have to sell the label. McQueen’s eccentricity meant that many of his show’s themes paired opposites, jeering at the monied class’ obsession with decorum and being proper and the liberalism of the avant-garde. Mixing the strong feminine silhouettes and dark, macabre symbols like the infamous skulls that featured in many of his pieces in both his main line and diffusion line, McQueen.
His death has sparked a reported 1400% rise in sales at Liberty. People are buying items not only because all his stock might end up in places like Sotheby’s but also as tribute to his undeniable talent. Many stars in the both the music and fashion world alike are finding their ways to honour his death. Liberty is planning to a commemorative window display entitled McQueen and Country for today. Beforehand, all windows were clothed in black in his memory. Lady Gaga, McQueen’s “unofficial” muse, plans to dedicate her BRIT Awards performance to him and Monica’s latest video, ‘Everything To Me’ features several pieces from his most recent collections. In honour of her favourite designer, Monica too is dedicating her video to the late McQueen.
Now we have walked through the eventful life of the four-time winner of British Designer of the Year, let us in honour of someone who fought for what he believed in, take a moment of silence. He didn’t give into the crass appeal of celebrity and on occasion was known for shunning the attendance of some celebrities at his show. Celebrate your talents and don’t be afraid to pursue your passion because you are the “pink sheep”, as McQueen referred to himself as, of your clique or of your family. But as the man said himself, "At the end of the day, it's just clothes … know what I mean?". This closing statement shows how McQueen never lost sight of what is important and remembered that when the show curtains close and the lights go down, there is more to life than just tightened corsets and Maharajah inspired earrings, there must be love and life beyond the catwalk.