In light of it being Alexander McQueen’s birthday today, we wanted to pay tribute by reminding the world what an artist he was. Known for wild shows, extravagant women’s lines and some kick ass men’s lines, his work and the impact he left on the fashion industry is legendary.
Here is a look at who Lee Alexander McQueen was, what his company grew into and why you still need to be watching his ever-growing brand.
The Early Years of Alexander McQueen
Lee Alexander McQueen knew early on who he was an what he wanted. By the age of six he was already making dresses for his sisters and proclaiming his goals of becoming a fashion designer.
As years went on he chased this dream throughout England, quickly making a name for himself at the top of his field.
At only 16 years old McQueen dropped out of school in search of an apprenticeship, which he landed on Savile Row working for Anderson and Shepard and later moving on to work with Gieves and Hawkes.
After learning the fine art of tailoring for England’s best, McQueen moved onto costume design. This wildly theatrical side of him came out in many of his pieces in his later years. McQueen took a number of different design jobs, including a chunk of time spent in Milan before returning to London to truly study the art of fashion.
Once back in London, McQueen enrolled in Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design where he finished with a M.A. in Fashion Design in 1992. His final project to completing his masters program was a collection inspired by Jack The Ripper, and showcasing McQueen’s tortured soul side early on. The entire line was purchased by well known London stylist Isabella Blow. Blow become a big advocate and mentor to McQueen throughout the years and was also the one who suggested he use his middle name, Alexander, for design purposes rather than his given name, Lee.
After graduation, McQueen started his own company, Alexander McQueen, and designed strictly women’s clothing. He met his first large bout of success for his “bumster” pants, which paved the way for low-rise pants everywhere.
Alexander McQueen and Givenchy
Four years out of design school Alexander McQueen took over the job of John Galliano (you may have heard his name in the last couple years due to his anti-semetic rants in a Paris café) as head designer for French fashion house Givenchy.
While the job was glamorous and prestigious by any designers count, McQueen was never quite satisfied with his career at Givenchy, once calling his first seasons collection complete crap in an interview.
After a five year stint with the company his contract ended and McQueen and Givenchy parted ways. McQueen left saying that the company constrained his creativity (he caught some grief after using a double amputee model with wooden legs in a show.)
McQueen later admitted in interviews that he treated Givenchy poorly and was in it strictly for the money. He stated that he and the fashion house had major creative differences and it just wouldn’t have ever fully worked. Of course during his short period at Givenchy that he seemed so disappointed with, he won British Designer of the year three times, in 96′, 97′ and again in 2001.
McQueen Meets Gucci
In 2000 while McQueen was finishing up his contract with Givenchy he sold 51% of his personal company, Alexander McQueen, to Gucci. Selling the majority share of the company gave Alexander McQueen the financial backing to take on the world of fashion without having as much of an eye looking over his shoulder for his creative decisions. He took on the role of Creative Director and was allowed the freedom to showcase his artistic talents like he had not been able to previously do.
The move turned out to be a great decision for both Gucci and Alexander McQueen, the man and the company. McQueen continued to gain recognition for his wild show style while using the funds gained by the merger to open a number of new stores, including New York, Milan, London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
His success with Gucci’s wallet proved itself when McQueen took home the award for International Designer of The Year, given to him by the Council of Fashion Designers.
Alexander McQueen Menswear
In 2005 Alexander McQueen launched its first menswear line and did not shy away from the wild antics brought to the womenswear lines by any means. McQueen continued to add a lot of gothic like theatrics to his shows, dark colors mixed with reds and of course the celebrity loved and McQueen made famous skull.
While the clothing looks wild and sometimes even unwearable on the runway, the work is truly a thing of perfection. Each suit is cut to be perfectly slim. Each piece is made with exact precision and while wild and out there, Alexander McQueen’s menswear lines may be some of the most bad ass collections to ever hit the stores or the runways.
The Death of an Artist
After the suicide of McQueen’s longtime mentor and friend Isabella Blow, McQueen seemed to become increasingly obsessed with death and darkness as a motif in his work. He dedicated his 2008 Spring/Summer collection to Blow, saying her death was the most valuable thing he learned in fashion.
His mother, who he was known to be exceptionally close with, passed away two years later and McQueen spiraled downward from there. The day before his mother’s funeral, February 11, 2010 McQueen was found in his London apartment after having committed a brutal suicide. Leaving behind very little explanation, with the only note asking for his dogs to be taken care of and offering his apologies and love.
It was later discovered, though it was no real secret, that the artist was on copious amounts of cocaine at the time of his suicide.
Alexander McQueen Today
While the tortured artist behind the years of great work is no longer with us, his legend lives on through his work and his company. Under the creative direction of Sarah Burton, McQueen’s longtime assistant, the brand still thrives and is known as one of the best British fashion powerhouses around the world.
The current menswear collection is full of lace, leather, skulls and perfectly tailored bad-assery. Click here to check out the current Alexander McQueen Ready to Wear line.
Where to Find Alexander McQueen
You can get your hands on some great McQueen pieces at a number of different high end fashion stores, but here is where we recommend starting:
The Alexander McQueen Website– For obvious reasons, your first place to check and best bet to find out what is new with all the Alexander McQueen Lines.
Mr. Porter– Mr. Porter is a favorite of ours, and they have an extensive collection of Alexander McQueen pieces. Plus if you play your cards right and look out for a Mr. Porter sale, you may even be able to get some discount pieces.
Nieman Marcus– A great powerhouse department store that carries plenty of McQueen. Also, another great place to watch for sales and discounts when hunting down your slim fit suit.
Alexander McQueen Stores– There is nothing like picking out your favorite new pieces in person. Click on the link to see a list of the Alexander McQueen stores and find the one nearest you.
Get Alexander McQueen on Sale
Getting your hands on some great McQueen is amazing, but not cheap. Our favorite place to look for some discounted items? Shopstyle.com With thousands of pieces to choose from, they flag all the sales for you.
You can also set up a sale alert to have ShopStyle tell you when new pieces are found at a discount.
Our Parting Words On Alexander McQueen, The Man and The Company
We are huge fans of both. The tormented artist leant the world a view into one of the most creative minds of this generation, while the brand continues to excite the fashion world season after season. We can only hope his legendary designs carryon as long as the memory will.
Happy birthday, Alexander McQueen, and thank you for your contributions to the world of fashion.
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