Alexander McQueen's Fashion Evolution
Not only that wedding dress, but the McQueen brand also makes immaculately tailored suits, architectural dresses and jackets that seem to be both of soft material and hard structure at once, room-clearing ball gowns and the most fluid and floaty of chiffon and silk evening dresses. The clothes, sometimes outré, are never ridiculous. The hair, makeup and production values of the shows have more in common with couture than ready to wear and they are as eagerly anticipated a fashion event as any. When Lee Alexander McQueen was alive, his catwalk stunts included sending the models to walk through a rainstorm, another time, a catwalk ringed with flames, and another year model Shalom Harlow stood fixed to the spot on a revolving platform, while gizmos hired from a car factory sprayed jets of paint straight onto her virgin white dress.
Most usually described as a ‘Visionary’ ‘Genius’ and always, always ‘Enfant terrible’ Alexander McQueen was now well into his tenure as part of the establishment, having left his enfant phase behind, at least in terms of age and experience, when he took his own life in February 2010, leaving the fashion world in mourning and an incredible legacy in terms of his archive, his successful business, part-owned by Gucci Group and his protégé, Sarah Burton, whom he had trained since her own degree at Central Saint Martins.
Lee Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children, brought up in the East End of London and obsessed by fashion his entire childhood. After leaving school at 16, he worked as an apprentice tailor on Savile Row, home of bespoke men’s tailoring for several years. Next, he made clothes for theatrical costumiers Angels and Berman’s. Only after this practical education in the construction of clothes did McQueen move into fashion design, firstly working for designer Koji Tatsuno, then Romeo Gigli in Milan. He eventually found his way to to Central Saint Martins, by this time aged 21, to undertake an MA in fashion design.
It didn’t take long, once inside one fashion institution [his college] before McQueen was firmly taken into the fold of the fashion world. His graduate collection was bought by Legendary stylist and fashion muse, Isabella Blow, who continued to support and mentor him for the rest of her life. He launched his own label straight away and began building his reputation for uncompromising design and mind blowing theatrics at his shows. With only eight collections under his belt he was head hunted to take up the head job at Givenchy, including designing its haute couture and ready to wear collections.
McQueen preferred being his own boss, however and when a deal from Gucci (under Tom Ford’s direction, the company bought a 51% stake in McQueen’s label) gave him the financial stability to leave the French couture house to concentrate on his own line, he did exactly that. There is now a diffusion line, McQ, offering rock’n’roll skinny jeans and embellished leggings for a younger customer on a tighter budget.
The brand, now under the direction of Mrs Burton, offers menswear, beautifully romantic bridalwear and fragrance. When asked about his uber-bold, fantastical S/S 2010 collection as a counterpoint to economic gloom, McQueen replied ‘I never understand why people retreat into commerce [in hard times] people want fantasy, they don’t want more reality. They have enough of that’.