It is with a very heavy heart that Grazia Daily are tapping away, racking the archive and picking the pics to sum up the very best moments of the late Alexander McQueen’s career in fashion.
Even his graduate collection (at Central Saint Martins) attracted press attention and was bought lock & stock by legendary stylist and fashion industry maven Isabella Blow.
In 1994 he kicked off his reputation for shock tactics with his tight fitted bumster trousers cut scandalously low on the hips, exposing the models’ backs and a sneaky flash of bum cleavage.
His '95 collection entitled Highland Rape used traditional tartan in startling cuts, the aggression of the title and styling of the shows contrasting with the sumptuous pieces. McQueen never went in for a deconstructed, raggedy style - his garments were always perfectly finished, representing the hours he invested during his apprenticeship on Savile Row.
As his confidence grew and financial constraints shrank accordingly, his catwalk shows became elaborate moments of theatre. His stunts included a ring of fire for AW98 and a magical snowstorm the following year.
For his SS01 collection, editors waited for hours in front of a vast mirrored box. When it finally broke open at the end of the show, it revealed a naked life model wearing a macabre mask while thousands of live butterflies flew into the spectators.
Although the most famous models walked for him (like Naomi Campbell, above in Givenchy) he also liked to mix it up, once hiring double amputee athlete Aimee Mullins to take to the catwalk for him. Instead of her normal prosthetics, she marched down the runway on a pair of intricately carved wooden legs commissioned especially for the show.
Kate Moss opened his AW06 show, but rather than walking for him she appeared as a ghostly presence floating above the catwalk as a hologram. (top picture).
The story behind the amazing 'spray paint' picture that will accompany so many of his obituaries this week? Model Shalom Harlow began the show in a white ballgown, which was then sprayed by machines adapted from a nearby car plant with black and yellow paint in front of the genuinely astonished editors' eyes.
The past few years have seen Mr McQueen replace the on-stage pyrotechnics with clothes that burn themselves onto fashion fans' memories. Many collections followed the same drill - suiting and separates, a new cut of trouser each time, building to mind-blowing crescendos of ballgowns. Above is a suit accessorised with a feather headdress for his AW06 collection, and the glorious rainbow print gown that slipped gracefully from the catwalk to the red carpet on many a well-dressed gal - including Beth Ditto, the fashionistas' preferred muse of '08.
AW09 drew the same comment from many observers: this collection is much more what we would expect from couture. McQueen, who handed in his resignation at Givenchy several years ago (where he was responsible for producing the haute couture collections), was never restrained by the idea of 'Ready to Wear'. Neither was his imagination hemmed in by definitions, or anything else.
His last collection, shown at Paris Fashion Week in September for SS10 was entitled Atlantis. McQueen's vision of an aquatic futuristic utopia/dystopia blew away spectators in the Paris venue as well as a world-wide audience of fans, glued to the show which was streamed live on SHOWstudio, an idea now being picked up by designers in all the fashion capitals.
McQueen was in there first. Simple ideas like streaming the footage of the shows can be repeated by anyone, but his design, his cuts and his showmanship will not be so easily copied. Today, fashion has lost a genuine maverick, a wonderfully talented performer.
- Naomi Attwood