Fashion and Suicide: Alexander McQueen’s Book To Finally See Release
“Highland Rape” was the name that British designer and couturier Lee Alexander McQueen, commonly known as Alexander McQueen, gave to his first collection that debuted in the Fall/Winter 1995-96 season. To many the name was controversial but to McQueen, the name held the history of the slaughter of his Scottish Ancestors by the English. This breakthrough collection and its controversial name made people aware of Alexander McQueen’s artistry and the intricacy of McQueen’s creative process. Like the story behind McQueen’s favorite play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his work was often erratic but was the manifestation of his perception of love.
The avant-garde designer got his start making dresses for his sisters and shortly announced his intention to become a fashion designer. McQueen was also openly gay from a young age and because of this, was repudiated by his father and teased in school. His mother, Joyce, to whom he was very close, encouraged Alexander to achieve his dreams. At the age of 17, one short year after McQueen left school, he served as an apprentice with Savile Row Tailors Anderson & Sheppard whose most noted work is being the tailors to the Prince of Wales. During this apprenticeship, McQueen gained skills and developed sewing techniques that would serve him later by contributing to his impeccably fine tailoring style.
At the age of 20, McQueen applied for a tutoring job at Central Saint Martins College of Art but because of his superb portfolio, he was persuaded to enroll as a student by Bobby Hillson (fashion illustrator, designer and founder of the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion course).
In 1992, McQueen presented his master’s-degree collection, which he named “Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims.” McQueen’s artistry caught the eye of Isabella Blow (English magazine editor). Blow, so moved by McQueen’s work, bought the entire collection. Blow was the person who convinced him to use his middle name as the name for his label, and so Alexander McQueen, the brand, was born.
In May 2007, Isabella Blow—who also suffered from depression—committed suicide and left a void in McQueen’s life. He dedicated his Spring/Summer 2008 show to Blow and symbolized her with birds. In one part of his show, he sent out large invitations that depicted Isabella Blow riding to heaven in a chariot powered by two magnificent Pegasi. His love for Isabella Blow translated into every garment on the Parisian runway and the drapery on some of the chiffon pieces symbolized how delicate she was to him.
At 27 years old, McQueen became the creative director at the house of Givenchy (LVMH—Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). Although this opportunity was amazing, the fit was not. Givenchy, the brand that is the epitome of Parisian elegance, was in no way ready to change to fit the eccentric Alexander McQueen who refused to compromise on his visions. After five years, Givenchy and McQueen parted ways but McQueen took lessons on drapery, softness and lightness with him.
Shortly after, McQueen got an offer from LVMH’s competitor, the Gucci Group and in December 2000, sold 51 percent of his share to them. In October, 2011, MCQueen unapologetically presented his spring/summer 2002 collection entitled The Dance of the Twisted of the Bull which received negative critique because the collection happened a couple of days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that took the lives of thousands. True to himself and his vision, McQueen took the critiques with stride and continued to produce more shows where he could put his spin on Romanticism.
Although McQueen lived a successful life with dozens of beautiful collections, the Fall 2009 Ready-To-Wear collection was special. It would be McQueen’s last fall collection before he tragically took his own life on February 11, 2010 at forty-years-old, one day before his mother’s funeral. McQueen commissioned photographer Nick Waplington to document the making of this final collection, The Horn of Plenty, and edited the pictures himself. This final fall collection was a satire of the fashion industry and was described as a “sackable offense” by McQueen.
Although the book has been ready since 2011, it is just now being released and published so that the world can glimpse inside the genius mind of Alexander McQueen. Pick up your copy on October, 31, 2013.
“When I’m dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” — Alexander McQueen
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