Alexander McQueen - The Hooligan of English Fashion
Born Lee Alexander McQueen in March 1969, Alexander is another of our famous British designers with a disruptive streak. As the youngest of 6 children he grew up in Stratford, London, UK.
Leaving Rokeby School in 1985, at 16, with one art O level, he went onto to Newham College to study tailoring, serving an apprenticeship with Anderson & Sheppard of Saville Row, where he tailored suits for dignitaries including Prince Charles & Mikhail Gorbachev. He went on to join what is now one of the oldest bespoke tailors in the world, Gieves & Hawkes. As his reputation grew on Saville Row for impeccable and immaculate tailored outfitting he attended the Rosetta Art Centre, whose lead there wrote a reference that got McQueen straight onto the MA fashion course at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design.
After his 1992 graduation collection, influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow, is said to have persuaded McQueen to become known as Alexander (his middle name) when he subsequently launched his fashion career.
It was during this period that McQueen relocated to another East End area of London, Hoxton . It was shortly after creating his second collection,"McQueen's Theatre of Cruelty", that McQueen met Katy England, his soon to be "right hand woman", often referred to as his 'second opinion'. She was creative director for the third collection "The Birds".
His items became synonymous with disruptive 'out there' fashion, earning McQueen the title the 'Hooligan of English Fashion'. Highlighted by his 1992 launch of the redefined cut of jean named as the "bumster".
Alexander McQueen designed the wardrobe for the 1996 - 1997 David Bowie tour 'Earthling', including the famous Union Jack coat from the album cover of the same name. Bjork also wore his clothing in some of her videos & photo shoots. Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, also wore his clothes on stage.
In 1996, at just 28 years old, McQueen became Chief Designer for French luxury fashion house Givenchy, after being named as British Designer of the Year for his work under his own label, which he maintained. He hadn't been at Givenchy long when he called the famous founder "irrelevant" & his own October 1997 collection, his first for the company, "crap".
Under his own name his collections featured streamlined, angular suits; hourglass-shaped dresses sculpted with tight corsets; long gowns with detail such as beaded needlework, flowers, and deer antlers. Later collections featured bulky 10-inch “Alien” and “Armadillo” heels.
Throughout his career he continued to shock & wow audiences with wild displays and dramatic use of technology for his shows. One his most famous was the VOSS collection of 2000/2001 show which had the audience staring at mirrored walls for long periods.
In 2000 his own brand was sold for a controlling interest to the Gucci group. He left Givenchy in 2001 & began to diversify his own brand into fragrances and more affordable ready to wear ranges.
Alistair McQueen died from apparent suicide in 2010, after receiving a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2003 from the Queen.
When asked about this, just before his death he lamented he didn't understand why he had been given it. "...Why they gave me that, I don’t understand—because I wrote, ‘I am a c–t,’ on the queen’s son’s jacket!". This was one of McQueens alleged 'trademarks', where he hid a message in the stitching of items he made.
Although obviously a troubled man, Alistair McQueen without doubt made an indelible mark on world fashion.
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