*Written by: Hugo Magalhães
Lee Alexander McQueen was born on March 17, 1969, into a working-class family living in public housing in London’s Lewisham district. At age 16 the fashion designer dropped out of school and found work on Savile Row, a street in London’s Mayfair district famous for offering made-to-order men’s suits.
He worked first with the tailor shop Anderson and Shephard, and then moved to nearby Gieves and Hawkes. McQueen decided to further his clothes-making career, and moved on from Savile Row where he began working with theatrical costume designers Angels and Bermans. The dramatic style of the clothing he made there would become a signature of his later independent design work.
Young Lee Alexander McQueen
Soon after obtaining his M.A. in fashion design in 1992 at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, Alexander McQueen started his own business designing clothes for women. He met enormous success with the introduction of his “bumster” pants, so named because of their extremely low-cut waistline.Only four years out of design school, McQueen was named Chief Designer of Louis Vuitton-owned Givenchy, a French haute couture fashion house. Although it was a prestigious job, McQueen took it reluctantly, and his tenure there (from 1996 to 2001) was a tumultuous time in the designer’s life.Even as he was pushing the limits of what people expected from fashion, McQueen felt he was being held back. He would later say that the job “constrain[ed] his creativity.” However, he also made the following admission: “I treated Givenchy badly. It was just money to me. But there was nothing I could do: the only way it would have worked would have been if they had allowed me to change the whole concept of the house, to give it a new identity, and they never wanted me to do that.”Even with his reservations about his work, McQueen won British Designer of the year in 1996, 1997, and 2001, all during his time at Givenchy.In 2003, McQueen was declared International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and A Most Excellent Commander of the British Empire by the Queen of England, and won yet another British Designer of the Year honor.In December 2000, 51% of Alexander McQueen was acquired by the Gucci Group, where he remained Creative Director. Collections include womens ready-to-wear, mens ready-to-wear, accessories, eyewear and fragrance (Kingdom 2003 and MyQueen 2005).
Meanwhile, McQueen opened stores in New York, Milan, London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Already known for the flare and passion of his shows, McQueen produced even more interesting spectacles after leaving Givenchy.
A good example is a hologram of model Kate Moss floated ethereally at the showing of his 2006 Fall/Winter line.
In 2007, the specter of death would come to haunt McQueen, first with the suicide of Isabella Blow. The designer dedicated his 2008 Spring/Summer line to Blow, and said that her death “was the most valuable thing I learnt in fashion.”
2008 Spring/Summer line to Blow
Just two years later, on February 2, 2010, McQueen’s mother died. One day before her funeral, on February 11, 2010, McQueen was found dead in his Mayfair, London apartment. The cause of death was determined to be suicide.
There is more than a lot of celebrities who regularly wear the most flaring creations of the fabulous fashion designer.
Kate MossLady GaGaKate MiddletonBlake Lively
His bold styles and fascinating shows inspired and wowed the world of fashion, and his legacy lives on. Longtime co-designer Sarah Burton took over the still-operating Alexander McQueen brand, and McQueen’s contribution to fashion was honored by a 2011 exhibition of his creations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.