Getting to know the late fashion designer, A. McQueen
by Call Me Stylista
McQueen, the beginner
The perennial Bad Boy of fashion had a very early initiation into the world of clothes. He started by making dresses for his three sisters which led him to leave school with an O-level in arts at 16 and then serve as an apprentice under Savile Row tailors, Anderson & Sheppard.
McQueen returned to London in 1994 and applied to Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, to work as a pattern cutter tutor. Because of the strength of his portfolio he was persuaded by the Head of the Masters course to enrol in the course as a student. He received his masters degree in fashion design and his graduation collection was bought in its entirety by influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow.
In 1996 LVMH chose McQueen to succeed John Galliano as head designer at Givenchy. McQueen eventually parted ways with Givenchy in 2001, when he claimed his contract with the French label was ‘constraining his creativity. Under his own label, and with the help of the Gucci group, which acquired a 51 per cent stake in the business, he built a fashion empire. Today, McQueen has flagship stores in New York, Milan, London and LA, an accessories collection, a menswear collection; and eyewear.
McQueen, the showman extraordinaire
Alexander McQueen’s shows were nothing short of monumental. During his Spring 2001 RTW show the audience sat around a mirrored cube, which, when lit from inside, revealed itself to be a mental-hospital holding cell. Demented girls, wearing hospital headbands and everything from extraordinary mussel-shell skirts to impossibly chic pearl-colored cocktail dresses, slithered and strutted.
For his comparatively cleaner and more sober Fall 2002 collection, McQueen couldn’t resist a lone, macabre trick—a vista of a pack of caged wolves, and the opening image of a lone figure clad in a purple leather cape leading a pair of dogs.
His Spring 2004 show was an exuberantly hilarious re-enactment of Sydney Pollack’s Depression-era film ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ The narrative involved dancers, models, and audience in a visceral celebration of exquisitely glamorous clothes.
His Fall 2009 show which had women with sex-doll lips and sometimes painfully theatrical costumes was heralded as the future of fashion by the industry-insiders but was nothing compared to the frenzy that greeted his Spring 2010 collection. It was strong statement about the future of our ecology, the incessant global warming which would force humans to live in the sea. These very humans evolving into alien-like reptiles were depicted in his collection. Having been embraced by the likes of Lady GaGa, it would be no exaggeration to assert that McQueen’s penchant for punk interjected with futuristic romanticism was not only accepted but also appreciated by the masses.
Apart from these there were innumerable moments during his shows that would leave the audience spell-bound. Like Shalom Harlow twirling on a turntable as she was spray-painted by a robotic arm; a ghostly apparition of Kate Moss that appeared and vaporized in a glass pyramid to the haunting strains of “Schindler’s List,” and para-Olympian record-holder Aimee Mullins striding down the catwalk on hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs with integrated boots.
McQueen, the trend god
Alexander McQueen was the man who made the builder’s bum fashionable. His “bumsters”, which appeared in 1996, spawned the trend in perilously low-rise, crevice-revealing jeans. The bumster is what defines McQueen, because it put him on the map and got him noticed as a force to be reckoned with.
One enduring motif which McQueen transported from catwalk to the High Street was the skull. His trademark scarf bearing the design has become a celebrity must-have. Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie and Cameron Diaz are among the stars who have been snapped wearing it.
His razor-sharp tailored looks fused the romantic with the edgy avant-garde, a fresh contrast that won international acclaim. In cutting his teeth at Anderson & Sheppard, and Gieves and Hawkes, McQueen learned the disciplines of shape and proportion in traditional tailoring. During this time he even made a suit for Prince Charles.
McQueen’s technical virtuosity grew quickly to eye-popping engineered prints. McQueen the creative palette extended further than just clothes. Some of McQueen’s most memorable designs were outlandish, unconventional and plain bizarre.
In his signature doc martens and with his close-cropped hair,this outspoken designer, who died on 11th February, 2010 was affectionately dubbed by the fashion press “the hooligan of English fashion,” or the “l’enfant terrible.”
*Her screenname, Not Fashionista. Call Me Stylista, aptly describes the fashion philosophy of this 20 year old law student from India who lives, dreams and breathes fashion. Armed with a personal blog called Call Me Stylista, this fashion addict has big plans to conquer the fashion world one fine day.