The Rebel King of British Fashion.
He was the son of an East End taxi driver who took over one of the grandest fashion houses of the world. McQueen reinvented the catwalk and created clothes who silenced his audience. Brilliant, offensive, beautiful, outrageous. Always making a statement, constantly pushing everything to the edge, British
Designer of the Year in 1996, 1997, 2001 and in 2003, even receiving as well that year the International Designer of the Year Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. McQueen was an anarchist who’s astonishing rise was made possible by an even more outrageous companion, English magazine editor, Isabella ”Issie” Blow who discovered Alexander in 1993. Fashion history even has McQueen signing a lucrative deal with Gucci in 2000, a deal which was reportedly initiated by Blow.
What neither of them could have guessed was the cost of that journey. Just as everything really seemed perfect on a professional level it all very brutally ended with the suicide first of the women who discovered him and then of McQueen himself. This was the end of a Fable of Fashion, a world that discards its past in an instant and drives its creators relentlessly in search of the next best thing.
One of McQueen’s most celebrated and dramatic catwalk show was his 2001 Spring/Summer collection, named VOSS. The centre piece tableau that dominated the room was an enormous glass box. But because the room outside the box was lit and the inside of the box was unlit, the glass walls appeared as large mirrors, so that the seated audience saw only their own reflection. Finally, after an hour, and when the show began, lights came on in inside the enormous glass case and revealed the interior to be filled with moths and, at the centre, a naked model on a chaise longue with her face obscured by a gas mask. The glass walls then fell away and smashed on the ground.
The model chosen by McQueen to be the centre of the show was the Britishwriter Michelle Olley. McQueen said that the tableau was based on the Joel PeteWitkin image Sanitorium. The British fashion photographer Nick Knight later said of the VOSS show on his SHOWstudio.com blog:
“The girl in the box was Michelle Olley. She modelled for me in a story I did called Sister Honey… She was a writer and I remember she wrote a great piece on being the Butterfly Girl in the middle of that (McQueen) Glass Box show. I was sat on the front row, inbetween Alexandra Schulman and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was is probably one of the best pieces of Fashion Theatre I have ever witnessed.”
Alexander McQueen later described his thoughts on the idea used during VOSS of forcing his audience to stare at their own reflection in the mirrored walls for over an hour:
“Ha! I was really pleased about that. I was looking at it on the monitor, watching everyone trying not to look at themselves. It was a great thing to do in the fashion industry—turn it back on them! God, I’ve had some freaky shows.”
In Spring 2011, Michelle Olley was asked by the New-York Metropolitan Museum of Art to contribute to their Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty. She was interviewed by The Met about VOSS for the audio guide to the show. Olley’s detailed diary/journal of modelling for McQueen – written between 18–27 September as the show was being planned and staged – was included in the Met Museum website coverage of the Savage Beauty exhibition. The VOSS diary relates details of the show and encounters with McQueen, ending with how Olley returned home after the show to find:
“…a MASSIVE bouquet of flowers has arrived, with a note [from McQueen] saying, “Thank you for everything – you were beautiful! – Lee xxx”
Presented only 2 months before McQueen’s suicide on the 11th of February 2010, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2010 (Platos Atlantis Special Edition):
Right before Alexander McQueen’s death, he had an eighty percent unfinished Autumn/Winter collection (Angels and Demons), 16 pieces, presented during Paris Fashion Week on 8 March 2010, to a select handful of fashion editors in a mirrored, gilded salon at the 18th Century Hôtel de Clermont-Tonnerre.
Fashion editors picked his final designs. Editors said the show was hard to watch because it showed how McQueen was obsessed with the afterlife. The clothes had a medieval and religious look. Basic colours that were repetitively used were red, gold and silver with detailed embroidery. His models were accessorized to show his love for theatrical imagery. “Each piece is unique, as was he”, McQueen’s fashion house said in a statement that was released with the collection.
McQueen’s death was announced on the afternoon of 11 February 2010. In the morning, his housekeeper found him hanging at his home on Green Street, London W1. Paramedics were called and they pronounced him dead at the scene.
McQueen died nine days after his mother Joyce had died from cancer at the age of 75. David LaChapelle, a friend of the designer, said that McQueen “was doing a lot of drugs and was very unhappy” at the time of his death. McQueen’s death came just days before London Fashion Week, although he was not scheduled to appear there.
McQueen left a note saying, “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.” The Metropolitan Police stated that the death was not suspicious, but did not confirm that the death was a suicide. On 17 February 2010, Westminster Coroner’s Court was told that a post-mortem examination found that McQueen’s death was due to asphyxiation and hanging. The inquest was adjourned until 28 April 2010, where McQueen’s death was officially recorded as suicide. McQueen, who had been diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder, took an overdose prior to hanging himself. He had taken drug overdoses in May and July 2009. Prior to hanging himself with his “favourite brown belt”, the inquest recorded that he had slashed his wrists with a ceremonial dagger and a meat cleaver. Coroner Dr. Paul Knapman reported finding “a significant level of cocaine, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers in the blood samples taken after the designer’s death.”
On behalf of Lee McQueen’s family, Alexander McQueen [the company] today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, has been found dead at his home. At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee’s family. Lee’s family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news and we hope the media will respect this.—Alexander McQueen Office, Official Website, 11 February 2010
On 3 February 2010, McQueen wrote on his Twitter page that his mother had died the day before, adding: “RIP mumxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.” Four days later, he wrote that he had had an “awful week” but said “friends have
been great”, adding: “Now I have to some how pull myself together”. His mother’s funeral took place on 12 February 2010. McQueen is survived by his father, three sisters, and two brothers.
After company owner Gucci confirmed that the brand would continue, McQueen’s long-term assistant Sarah Burton was named as the new creative director of Alexander McQueen in May 2010.
McQueen’s funeral took place on 25 February 2010 at St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, West London. His ashes were later scattered on the Isle of Skye.
Here is a playlist I made myself of some more (all!) Alexander McQueen Official Fashions Shows presented by chronological order starting by 1994 . I suggest you check out the clips posted above first and then the ones on this playlist. If you are into fashion you gatta love this little playlist put together especially for you!