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A lexander McQueen 19 6 9 – 2 0 10



should be a form of escapism, and not form of imprisonment.”


Alexander McQueen




























Timeline 1969

Lee Alexander McQueen, the youngest of six children was born in the East End of London to Joyce and Ronald McQueen. His father was a taxi driver; his mother was a social science teacher.


At 16, McQueen left school. Later he found an apprenticeship on Savile Row working for the tailors Anderson & Sheppard.

1987 Moved to Gieves & Hawkes. By the time he was 21, McQueen had also worked for Angels & Bermans, the theatrical costume company, and for the London based Japanese designer Koji Tatsuno. 1990 Moved to Milan. Started to work as a pattern cutter for Italian designer Romeo Gigli. 1994 Earned a master’s degree at the Central St. Martins in London, where his graduate collection caught the attention of Ms. Blow. She acquired every peiece of that collection and took McQueen under her wing.


BIOGRAPHY Born Lee McQueen in the East End of London in 1969, Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children to a taxi driver and a social history teacher. He left school at the age of sixteen and started an apprenticeship with the Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard. From there McQueen moved to the tailors Gieves and Hawkes, the theatrical costumers Bermans and Nathans, the designer Koji Tatsuno in London, and (at age twenty) to Romeo Gigli in Milan. Returning to London in 1990, he sought employment teaching pattern-cutting at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design; instead, despite his lack of formal fashion training, he was offered a place in the fashion design course as a graduate student. He was awarded the master of arts degree in 1992. After leaving college, McQueen claimed unemployed social security benefits and feared criminal prosecution if caught working for money. He then began designing under the name of Alexander McQueen, continuing to claim benefits as Lee McQueen. His graduate collection was bought in its entirety by the influential stylist Isabella Blow, at that time a Vogue fashion editor, who went on to promote and encourage his work over several years. “He takes ideas from the past and sabotages them with his cut to make them thoroughly new and in the context of today.… He is like a Peeping Tom in the way he slits and stabs at fabric to explore all the erogenous zones of the body.” Isabella Blow, quoted in Sarajane Hoare, “God Save McQueen.” As Alexander McQueen he immediately started his own label, first showing in Autumn-Winter 1993. His early collections, such as Nihilism (Spring-Summer 1994) and Highland Rape (Autumn-Winter 1995) relied on shock tactics rather than wearability, a strategy that helped him

establish a strong identity. With their harsh styling, the designs in these collections explored variations on the themes of abuse and victimization. They frequently featured slashed, stabbed, and torn cloth, as well as McQueen’s brutally sharp style of tailoring. He introduced extraordinary narrative and aesthetic content to his runway shows. Styling, showmanship, and dramatic presentation became as important as the design of the clothes; models walked on water, were drenched in “golden showers” on an ink-flooded catwalk, or were surrounded by rings of flame. The shows were put together on minimal budgets, assisted by models, makeup artists, stylists, and producers prepared to work for nothing. His creative director, Katy England, played an important role in both the development of his aesthetic and the design and styling of his shows. At this stage McQueen began collaborations with designers such as Dai Rees and the jewelers Shaun Leane and Naomi Filmer, whose accessories and jewelry he used in his shows. Besides these activities, he also worked with innovative film, video, and pop producers. McQueen played up to his bad-boy reputation, opening himself to accusations of misogyny in his Highland Rape collection, which featured apparently bruised and battered models staggering along an apocalyptic, heather-strewn runway, and baring his backside to the buyers at the New York version of his Dante show (Autumn/Winter 1996). His commercial sense, however, was as sharp as his tailoring, and his antics and anecdotes were always to a purpose, be it to attract press, buyers, or backers. The Dante show in New York, for example, elicited an order from Bergdorf Goodman. From the start McQueen understood the commercial value of shock tactics in the British fashion industry, which had almost no infrastructure despite its reputation for innovation. After he had acquired his first backer, he toned down, while not entirely losing, the outrageous content of the shows. Other important developments for McQueen occurred in 1996. Late in that year he changed his backer to the Japanese corporate giant Onward Kashiyama, one of the world’s biggest clothing production houses; it also backed Helmut Lang and Paul Smith. Its subsidiary, Gibo, produced the McQueen line. In October he was appointed designer in chief at Givenchy in Paris, replacing John Galliano, who went to Christian Dior. Also in 1996 McQueen was named the British Designer of the Year—a success he repeated in 1997 and 2001.

Moved his studio to Hoxton


and started working with Katy England, who becomes his Creative Director. Succeeded John Galliano to


become Head Designer at French haute couture house Givenchy. Continueed to show collections under the McQueen label and awarded British Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council. Designed the Union Jack coat


which David Bowie wears on the cover of his 1997 album Earthling. McQueen’s pink jumpsuit from La Poupée was displayed in the V&A exhibition and later acquired for the Museum.

Union Jack coat Gucci purchased a controlling


interest in the McQueen line, allowing McQueen greater creative licence. He remained Creative Director and left Givenchy the following year.



Received the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award for Best International Designer and was honoured with a CBE for his services to the fashion industry.


Returned to the London catwalk for the first time in three years, in association with long-term sponsor American Express. Presented Men’s Collection in Milan.


Launcehed McQ Label which is more affordable line.


Isabella Blow, McQueen’s close friend committed suidice. Awarded GQ Menswear Designer of the Year.


Collaborated with prima ballerina Sylvie Guillem on the stage costumes for Eonnagata at Sadler’s Wells.


Plato’s Atlantis (S/S 2010) is lauded as McQueen’s greatest collection and became the first ever fashion show to be live streamed on the internet.

Plato’s Atlantis catwalk


McQueen and Galliano thus spearheaded an assault on Paris-based fashion by young British designers in the 1990s, and their iconoclastic imagery and show techniques did much to boost a flagging French business. The appointment to Givenchy brought with it the backing of the conglomerate LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), which allowed McQueen to continue his uncompromising design style for his own label. While he toned down the rougher edges of his style for Givenchy, in both the Givenchy and McQueen collections he continued to develop themes that had been with him since graduation. Darkly romantic, with a harsh vision of history and politics, McQueen’s approach differed from the more straightforwardly romantic output of Galliano or Vivienne Westwood. His inspirations were as likely to be cult films by Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini, or Alfred Hitchcock; seventeenth-century anatomical plates; or the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, as his predecessors in the pantheon of fashion design. His early designs included the low-slung and cleavage-revealing “bumster” trousers; he maintained a fascination with highly structured corsets and tailoring, as well as with historical cut and detailing. However, in the late 1990s the victimized look of his early models gave way to an Amazonian version of female glamour as a form of terror. Growing up with an older sister who was a victim of domestic violence, McQueen has said that as a designer he aimed to create a vision of a woman so powerful that no one would dare to lay a hand on her. In tandem with his commercial work, McQueen continued to collaborate with photographers such as Nick Knight and Norbert Schoerner in publishing projects, and to work with those outside the fashion world, such as the artist Sam Taylor-Wood and the musician Björk. Whereas his sharp tailoring was sold in shops, his dramatic, unique showpieces that never went into production were in demand from art galleries and exhibitions across the world. McQueen sold a controlling share in his business to Gucci in December 2000 and left Givenchy early in 2001, continuing to show under his own name in Paris rather than London. His role as creative director of the company permitted him to retain creative freedom as a designer, while the backing of Gucci—owner of Yves Saint Laurent,

Stella McCartney, and Balenciaga—facilitated the transition of his business from a small-scale London label to a global luxury brand. In March 2001 he launched his custom-made menswear line in collaboration with the Savile Row tailors Huntsman. That year McQueen also opened a flagship store in New York and, in 2003, two more in London and Milan. He launched his perfume, Kingdom, in 2003 as well, the same year that the Council of Fashion Designers of America named him International Designer of the Year and that Britain awarded him a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for his services to the fashion industry. Recently, McQueen explored new ways of making runway shows available on the Internet. His very theatrical Webcast show with a hologram of Kate Moss attracted tremendous attention, as did his live streaming of his runway shows.

McQueen’s Mother Died


on February 2nd after a long illness. Her funeral was scheduled for February 12th. McQueen,40, hung himself in his closet on February 11th, a few weekns before his 2010 fall collection. The unfinished collection is completed by Sarah Burton. Gucci Group Announced The Brand would continue without Mcqueen. February 25. McQueen is buried.

On February 11, 2010, McQueen, at the age of forty and reportedly in despair at the recent death of his mother, took his own life, sending waves of shock and sorrow through the international world of fashion. After his death, McQueen’s long-term assistant Sarah Burton was named as the new creative director of Alexander McQueen. In 2011, Burton designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress for her marriage to Prince William. Daphne Guinness at Lee’s funernal





“[This collection predicted a future in which] the ice cap would melt... the waters would rise and... life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. Humanity [would] go back to the place from whence it came.” Plato’s Atlantis (Spring/Summer 2010) program notes

“There is no way back for me now. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.” WWD, February 12, 2010

Silk jacquard in a snake pattern embroidered with yellow enamel paillettes in a honeycomb pattern



Reptilian and sea-born, iridescent scales and aquatic colors defines the collection. It was “an apocalyptic forecast of the future ecological meltdown of the world: Humankind is made up of creatures that evolved from the sea, and we may be heading back to an underwater future as the ice cap dissolves. Nature was the greatest, or at least the most enduring, influence upon McQueen. It was also a central theme, if not the central theme, of Romanticism. Many artists of the Romantic movement presented nature itself as a work of art. McQueen both shared and promoted this view in his collections, which often included fashions that took their forms and raw materials from the natural world. 18

Alexander McQueen presented his extravagant Horn of Plenty collection in Paris in March 2009. Models walked the scrap yard runway which was created with props from past shows to Marilyn Manson’s song “Beautiful People” looking anything but beautiful. Bold stripes, prints and colours dominated as did clown-like make-up. The runway show was a celebration of the best moments of his career.

Fall 2009 Horn of Plenty

For McQueen, as it was for the Romantics, nature was also a locus for ideas and concepts. That is most clearly reflected in Plato’s Atlantis (Spring/Summer 2010), the last fully realized collection the designer presented before his death in February 2010. Alexander McQueen continues his reign as the most innovative designer in fashion currently with his Spring/ Summer 2010 collection. The clothes themselves are, as usual, thought-provoking and exquisite.

The Girl From Atlantis Vogue Nippon May 2010

Alien humanoid look hair 2010








“Animals... fascinate me because you can find a force, an enrgy, a fear that also exists in sex.� February, 2010

Details Horn of Plenty


We always expect the unexpected from him, but in a season that has played relatively safe this was without doubt the most exhilarating performance of all. Entitled Horn of Plenty and dedicated to “my mother Joyce Barbara McQueen,” it featured a towering, blacksprayed rubbish tip in the centre of the circular stage in the Palais Omnisport. On closer inspection, among the televisions, tyres and sinks, there were various props from past McQueen shows. For a moment we wondered the designer was going to play it safe too—but nothing could limit his inspiration, and this was just as dramatic as ever. 26

Models with Marilyn Manson make-up—white faces and huge glossy lips—teetered around the rubbish pile on the most enormous platform shoes, some in red patent to match the lips, with various paraphernalia on their heads: upturned umbrellas, woven baskets, feathered lampshades, stiff spheres of lace, gigantic black plastic rollers, huge piles of shiny rubber, even one plastic bag that hid the girl’s face completely. For next season he’s given us bright red and white houndstooth skirt suits that are as shapely as only he can make them, their collars rising up in a wave about the face. Pencil skirts rise to tiny waists on chiffon blouses

One of the most compelling items is an ensemble that’s made out of duck feathers dyed black, which gives the impression of a raven. A raven was a Romantic symbol of death. It’s an item that’s very melancholic but also very romantic at the same time. Horn of Plenty was a collection that was very much inspired by the 1950s haute couture. And you even see the silhouette here; you see the very nipped-in waist, the huge shoulders. McQueen loved hard shoulder and small waist. Andrew Bolton The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum

with cowl backs and then the houndstooth is translated onto a chiffon day dress, whose print shimmered on hundreds of tiny flags of fabric, or a bulging fur coat for a Cruella de Vil moment. There were knitted culottes to match rolls of piled up wool on the head and cropped leather trousers as well as skinny leggings to match, before stunning black brocade dresses had red tulle pushing out of the armholes and at the hem. Jackets with peaked shoulders and all-enveloping monastic cloaks had a medieval formality about them, while one flamboyant red and white dress was nearly too big for

the model to drag around with her: Cinderella’s ugly sister trying too hard and losing. The final two dresses were made entirely of feathers: one black cocoon of them and the other in white with its feathered overskirt pulled up vertically to hide the model’s head. It was a triumph in technical vivacity that we didn’t want to end. Eventually, the heart beat on the soundtrack slowed to a flatline and it was over. McQueen has to be seen to be believed. Vogue 2009


From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau






“I have always loved the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that.” “Birds in flight fascinate me. I admire eagles and falcons. I’m inspired by a feather but also its color, its graphics, its weightlessness and its engineering. It’s so elaborate. In fact I try and transpose the beauty of a bird to women.” Natural Dis-tinction Un-natural Selection (Spring/Summer 2009) program notes

Precious Metal Liya Kebede by Daniel Jackson for Vogue Nippon, February 2009




We walked in to take our seats beside a zoo of life-size stuffed animals—elephant, leopard, hippo, rhinoceros, tiger, llama, zebra, polar bear, stag and friends. Behind them an illuminated globe lit up the warehouse we were in the 19th La Villette—and as the first models walked out from among the four legged creatures, McQueen’s initial inspiration—the evolution of man—became a clear visual message. Less aggressive—or spooky—than some of his past shows, this one allowed us to see (better than some) beyond the sensationalist presentation and fully appreciate the beauty of the clothes. The first coat, sculpted to a high collar and featuring a print inspired by—but not over literally—the tiger behind it, was sumptuously impressive. Sexy nude silk dresses with yellow lace overlays would have been simply gorgeous, but for the barely visible nylon veils over the faces of models that drew in their features to give them a barely-born uniformity. There were references to the animal kingdom—alligator skin corset belts that freed silk robes to burst forth into bloomer pants and fluid silk uppers and an occasional flash of zebra print—but more subtle references were even more beautiful: fine silk tassels looped around the body in degrades of black to grey and pink that, as they moved, resembled a bird’s movement in flight.

Stiff mini dresses with built up shoulders, sliced-away side panels and high necklines were smothered in crystals to make human disco balls of the models, while others came featuring x-rays of the bodies within them, with additional vertebrae making up puffed thighs of jodhpurs beneath a matching jacket—the play on textures and colours as much a part of this demonstration of McQueen’s genius as the ankle-to-neck jewelled jumpsuits or Dracula-worthy leather coats. “There are lots of funny animals but have you ever seen a panther who is pink?” Sang the speakers as the models, grinning in a way they surely never have before on a McQueen catwalk, took their final turn before a huge fluffy nylon blue and pink bunny bounced on to take a bow—at the time of going to press it wasn’t clear whether this was the designer himself, but we like to think so. So used to drama are we at McQueen that some of us left feeling as we hadn’t quite seen it all—surely the animals were supposed to come alive and roar? Where were the fireworks and nightmare inducing soundtracks? But no matter. We saw clothes we’ll die to buy next season and McQueen in a bunny costume. Everybody’s happy. Vogue October 2008








“Britain always led the way in every field possible in the world from art to pop music. Even from the days of Henry VIII. It’s a nation where people come and gloat at what we have as a valuable heritage, be it some good, some bad, but there’s no place like it on earth.” Dazed & Confused, September 1998

“As a place for inspiration, it’s the best in the world. You’re inspired by the anarchy in the country.” Numéro, July/August 2002



Inspired by British colonialism, regal triumphs and his recent trip to India, McQueen proved himself a veritable C.S Lewis of the catwalk today—the same day that he announced his Gucci-owned company had hit profit for the first time and who could have cause to doubt it? McQueen’s has arguably been one of the most desirable show passes every season since he started out 14 years ago and, if that’s the case, the Autumn/Winter 2008-9 one will be the golden ticket. More than 1,000 of us sat spellbound as the one of the most beautiful fashion fairytales of our age was unveiled, accompanied by an intoxicating soundtrack of Mozart, Hadyn and Nirvana. “I’ve got a 600-year-old elm tree in my garden and I made up this story of a girl who lives in it and comes out of the darkness to meet a prince and become a queen,” the designer explained backstage. What emerged was a darkly gothic creature with huge backcombed hair, wearing head-to-toe shrink-wrapped black leather with a skeletal branch as her crown. Minutes later, she was a crinoline princess, wrapped in a whirl of knotted chiffon dripping with jewels from her forehead all the way down her intricately tucked bodice. Sari silks had feathered chiffon fountains bursting from beneath them, silken robes were embroidered with delicate peacocks whose beaks met at the strapless neckline and colonial velvets and ermine coats were richness personified. Court couturiers Norman Hartnell and Sir Hardy Amies both had a place in this historical collection, but McQueen more than ever managed to whip up the most covetable of the British and Indian couture details and stir them into an incredible fantasy by way of his highly skilled tailoring techniques. Vogue February 2008 43






“Women should look like women. A piece of cardboard has no sexuality.” W, April 2007

Milana Keller for Muse #16



Alexander McQueen takes

criticism well,

definite angry rebellion, and somehow we knew that this time McQueen was going to show us what he most loved about his industry.

As her two most successful discoveries and close friends, universally acknowledged as Philip Treacy and McQueen one of the most talented collaborated on the show in creatives of our era, he tribute to Issy. Entitled La produced a show last season that—murderous drive, pouring Dame Bleue it featured typically ambitious head pieces from rain and dull delay aside—just Treacy—from his signature didn’t please the buyers. No butterfly swarms to metal matter that Elizabeth How, the woman convicted of being visors and incredible spiral sweeps of chain mail, any a witch in 1692, who inspired one could have been chosen the collection, the inverted pyramid hanging over the cat- by her for any of her public appearances—or indeed, walk showing scenes of death any of her trips to the office. and destruction, and the For Issy, no day was a dresssolid, mummy casket dresses down day and her nipplegenerated plenty of press, the buyers just didn’t buy—so next revealing corsets, boxer short moments and eye-catching, time around he hasn’t given eye-covering hats were them a choice. Rumour has legendary in Vogue House it that there was unrest in the at any time from Monday McQueen team before the morning to Friday night. Autumn/Winter show and the ill-feeling certainly bled A huge set of mechanical wings outwards to his audience—so flashed red above the catwalk Spring/Summer 2008 was all as we heard Pegasus snorting about wooing us back. and taking off, and then, contrary to McQueen’s usual On entering the white-onshow habit, his models took white space the mood got to a normal, straight-up-andbetter—an affectionate nostalgia for Issy Blow, whose down catwalk. Appropriately favourite Robert Paguet scent reserved considering its dedication, the show format had been sprayed liberally was in complete contrast around the room, denoted to the clothes on display, which that this would be a fitting were everything McQueen is tribute: love was in the air, famous for—with a serious dose where last season there was a


of buyer—seducing commercialism sewn in. Beginning with a fine black, white and red tweed, he constructed skirt suits around the models’ body to give them curves like no other— exaggerated hips pointedly accentuated the tiny waists that were cinched by wide grid-like obi belts of red patent leather under twisted chiffon bound uppers. Double-stilt shoes forced the models to walk as if their feet were bound, making real the oriental theme that is prevalent for next season but conveyed nowhere so well as here, while the wing motif translated to dresses made entirely of tiny black and white feathers which were also plastered on to the models’ faces at times. Incredible psychedelic dresses running from orange through fuchsia to pink and turquoise were big winners, while a fuchsia-toblack degrade will be a perfect accent to all the nudes and pastels that will take over red carpet events next Spring. Moulded leather, pink python skin dresses and a silken basket weave were new ways to wear the McQueen shapes that Isabella had so loved. McQueen, in a kilt and Mickey Mouse T-shirt, took his bow with his arm around Treacy. Vogue October 2007



The theme of birds—particularly symbolic of Blow—held the show together. From birdof-paradise silhouettes to wing-like capes and feathered details, the show was an ode to delicate creatures of the sky. The gallery shows the bird-of-paradise inspirations in head adornments, colourful capes that resemble an extended set of wings, a stunning dress in what appears to resemble the feather patterns of an owl and a grey dress so pale, it evokes images of the soft plummage of a swan.





“I’m making points about my time, about the times we live in. My work is a social document about the world today.” Big, Autumn/Winter 2007



nspired by an distantly related ancestress, Elizabeth How, who was convicted of being a witch in Salem in 1692—the designer’s mother apparently came across that cheerful bit of news when researching the McQueen family tree—he tempted us all out to the Zenith stadium in the 19th with the thought of all the joys of Spring, romance and fresh blooms involved in the McQueen Spring/ Summer 2007 collection. Where we wanted a catwalk, we got a Ouija board—above it an gigantic down-facing pyramid screen showing

eye make-up and piled their hair out behind their heads with heavy curtain fringes in front. Starting with a stiff egg shaped dress with a pregnant stomach, he moulded his jackets and dresses out of stiff metallic silks, painted taffeta and wool that made aliens of his models but emphasised the genius of his construction yet again. Torturous solid gold bustiers were unrelenting body casts that rose up over the face or down low at the back, while indigo and gold brocade dresses had a regal authority. One beautiful gold sequined dress was the queen of the night, while 58

alternate shots of cockroaches crawling over eachother, a naked woman writhing, faces being burnt to their bare skulls and the terrifying vision of, the poor old aunt. Get the picture? Good—because at that point the most sensible of us turned away and tried to think of something pretty. McQueen’s ability to lose himself and produce a universe out of whatever idea has taken him was in evidence tonight more than ever. Taking witchcraft’s origins in pagan Egyptian belief as his starting point, he gave his models Cleopatra

plum-coloured cashmere hooded mini dresses, wide leather corsets, snakeskin bags and platform boots made up the commercial contingent. It’s a tricky balance for a man with McQueen’s ability to translate the fantastic through couture to then dumb down his ideas and include clothes we could walk off in, in a practical sense. He was in the mood for horror, but that couldn’t eradicate McQueen’s dark lust for romance. Vouge, March 2007







“Remember Sam Taylor-Wood’s dying fruit? Things rot… I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time.” Harper’s Bazaar US, April 2007

“[I love the] washed out colors [in this collection]. Julia Margaret Cameron. Hand-painted Victorian pictures. So, it’s not really black, it’s grey. And, it’s not really white, it’s dirty white. And, the pink is like the powder on the face.” Purple Fashion, Summer 2007




It’s no surprise to hear that McQueen is the toast of Fashion Week, but the performance he put on this evening was spectacular even by his own skyscraper standards. “I don’t think anybody couldn’t have thought it was absolutely spectacular,” Alexandra Shulman said afterwards. “His tailoring is incredible, his cut extraordinary and a McQueen show is the closest you can get to theatre while still being a fashion show. If anybody wanted to hire him to do their stage sets it would be such a coup for them.” The only question is who it will be—if McQueen has time to take up such an offer between concocting such extraordinary visions—of which his Spring/Summer 2007 version was a classic example. Historical, darkly romantic, breathtaking in its detailing and unique as only McQueen can make it, each piece was mesmerising from its exaggerated hip to its sculpted bodice to the fall of its petal-embroidered hemline. As feminine as were the evening gowns, some emblazoned with a beautiful swallow print, McQueen put a vintage masculine cut on suits for girls—one topped with a trilby—and underlined the contrast by teaming a pair of Edwardian men’s trousers with a froth of pink lace ruffles that fell off one shoulder to the floor. One model literally appeared in a puff of smoke that was lightly embroidered with lilac crystals—and though it was as heavily impressive as McQueen likes to be, there was a new joie de vivre in gowns made entirely of fresh flowers. It was dramatic in his elegance, but had a new Springtime lightness in its beauty that the 37-year-old British designer attributes to a new maturity. “The more I mature, the less confrontational I become,” he said before the show. “I’ve softened a bit in my old age.” Vogue, October 2006 67

From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau







“I’ve done Victorian, I’ve done romantic,” he said.“I wanted to bring sexy back. It’s what is missing right now. And Alaïa was sexy for me. It was classy sex.” He added,“I have so much respect for him, and I don’t even think he will mind.” October 2005


Inspired by   Greek goddesses On the lilac line, number eight, and get two off from the end—I bet Isabella Blow doesn’t have half the trouble I do finding cabs—but soon I was just one of the people garnishes squished into the sandwich-like seating at the after dark Alexander McQueen show. Emerging from a tunnel of bright lights, the models were like the raising of the living dead and the music was so loud you were literally blown off your seats—from the start McQueen set out to prove what makes him stand out from the rest. With girls pounding up-pose-turn-and back he sent them into the firing line—all be it snappers at the end of his runway. He started in black—all black—from the patent heels and tights to the fitted tailored jacket and the short flicked out skirt. Clearly he too had experienced an English Summer and despaired when all the world annually goes mad and wears brightly coloured vest tops. It seems McQueen had decided this Summer it was his mission, nay duty, to bring the same level of sharpness and style from fall. Just’cos its sunny it doesn’t mean you have to wear florals and frills—you can still look slick. Tailoring was tight but not as circulation— sucking as usual, and Gemma’s mini black cape with gold chain (and black tights and heels) would be ideal for showing them who’s boss backstage on a rainy day in June. With the hell-raiser meets ecclesiastical motive (a phoenix someone sat further forward told me), embroidered in silver on the reverse you


could guarantee people talking behind—or indeed—about your back. Tux tailcoats, white satin shirts and cruelly I’d set an age limit of below 20 only on his hot pants. Then things moved into silver lurex pants, embossed ‘boxer’ style belts and, dare I say the tightest leather trousers I have ever seen painted onto anyone’s, albeit perfect, pins in olive green. This rock chick clearly isn’t after a tan next season. Leather bras and cropped mini jackets were only marginally shorter than the skirts. A blasting backbeat by Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Suzi Quatro— even the women on his soundtrack were strong. Black and olive went to white and, again, touched on the ecclesiastical—but got back to sacrilegious and non PC form with tightest pant suits, gold sateen style micro mini prom dresses and Carmen in a nude pearl-fringed mini mini. Grecian goddesses, tiny pleated Monroe dresses in baby sizes, metallic-greens with diamond necks and stone-encrusted bikinis that might be fine for trapeze artists but could prove very tricky to swim in—McQueen was going for starlets and girls who prefer to stay in the shade. He came running out in a T-shirt emblazoned with the message WE LOVE YOU KATE—proving that fashion isn’t as fickle and faithless as all that—and this collection will certainly be ideal for her triumphant iconic return. Vogue, October 2005







“When we put he antlers on the model and then draped over it the lace embroidery that we had made, we had to poke them through a £2,000 piece of work. But then it worked because it looks like she’s rammed the piece of lace with her antlers. There’s always spontaneity. You’ve got to allow for that in my shows.” Big, Autumn/Winter 2006



With PRs calling to let us know, as well as a ticket that stated the show’s start was going to be prompt as there were two to get through, most people went into a tail spin. But the hours could not come soon enough, tick-tock, to McQueen. The anticipation had practically reached hysteria by lunchtime—such was the hype and chatter surrounding it. Even the large black A4 invite with McQueen in silver print, inside a black and white cameo image of an Edwardian girl and the quote ‘Bantraich de cuil Lodair’—even without a clue of what any of this meant it was very exciting: that was the power of the spell he was casting. Out in heaven knows what arrondissement, there no time to dilly dally and spiky shoes were leaping from cabs and throwing themselves as near to the front of any nearby queue. A sprint round the corner to Gate 28, past the tough security and the stripped raw timber, like a mountie’s ranch, a glass pyramid in the centre of the room that the hemp covered benches surrounded. As usual who knew what to expect. On each seat assignment you sat on a sticker saying “dedicated to my friend Isabella Blow”, who has been conspicuous in her absence with badly timed flu, and would be fairly bursting with pride and delight at her finds’ loyalty and recognition. Falcon wings, nests and feathers appeared headpieces and crowns: Blow would most definitely have been whooping with delight in a similar creation. Sculpted shapes, full skirts and his tailoring in pastel mints, sherbet lemons and Rocco swirling embroidery over busts and skirts, flesh lace tulle edging hems, cuffs or sweetheart necklines.


Anarchy and the romance of a highland fling, softer than the McQueen past with his Highland Rape-entitled show, in red tartans mixed with cashmere camel tweeds, high collars and ringlets that were coming undone. Falcon feathers covered one gown from top-to-train, like a down of fur, then followed sables with bobbles attached, and McQueen was at his romantic and most imaginative best in years. Too many looks swooshed past—the next seeming more perfect than before. As the ruffles and court of Louis the Something, the Highlands and Sex Pistols’ Punk generation all collided and scarcely a breath could be eard as everyone waited for the next look. From an eerie antler-wearing white lace ruffled ‘bride’ to the ethereal butterfly-strewn Gemma Ward in white ruffle gown, crunching satin print gowns and romantic swooshes of fabric, McQueen had looked to all his greatest hits and made an new improved collection of new ideas. But with this designer, particularly in his London showing days, a show is not a show without a special trick—and tonight it was the glass triangle. The lights dimmed and a fleck of light seemed to be a spirit trying to make contact with planet earth. Smoke, flickers and a girl billowing, hair loose in the wind, her white ruffled McQueen gown curling up and around her as she flickered to life. The hologram got clearer and clearer as the image of Kate Moss flailing in the gale tried to break free. “Help me Obi One, you’re my only help,” she seemed to say to her friend but, just as the image got so clear you felt she was sure to step through the glass, it lost her. A flash of stars and the Tinkerbell Kate was gone but, like Blow, a spirit inspiring and ever present at this memorable vintage McQueen tonight. Vogue, March 2006 83







“[In this collection] the idea of the chess game meant that we looked at six different types of women, women on opposing sides. We had the Americans facing the Japanese and the redheads facing the tanned Latinos.� Another Magazine, Spring/Summer 2005


McQueen offered up a collection which is better described as a personal greatest hits than as a standalone collection. Although he had always been self-referential (it is always said that the only way to truly become iconic is to repeat imagery), this collection saw him re-interpret a series of his staples by adding a new, feminine touch. It is an example of McQueen’s new, lighter aesthetic which appeared to come after the business was acquired by the Gucci group and, tellingly, after his time working at Givenchy. The setting for the show eventually revealed itself to be a giant illuminated chessboard—a set choice which seems to represent the brutal nature of the fashion industry in which designers are targeted and replaced by new, younger models. Upon this chessboard stood 36 models, each of whom wore outfits which sometimes correlated with one another and sometimes bore no relation whatsoever, eliminating the notion of any kind of definitive ‘aesthetic’ for the season. A few of the opening looks created the image of a horny Edwardian 90

schoolgirl, with flared frilly skirts and semi-sheer blouses—a contrast against the nautical looks which followed them which showed navy sailor jackets and tailored trousers injected with a few signature McQueen touches.

American sportswear which was combined with a lilac obi sash, purple thigh-high boots and a helmet.

Overall, the show was a huge success in the sense that it tied together all of the greatest and most recognisable aspects Seemingly sensing an overdose of McQueen’s aesthetic and presented them in an of romance, the designer sent out the first re-interpretation of impressive and original fashion. By this point it had his Yoruba-inspired Eshu become clear that the most collection. The first of three recent incarnation of the looks, the model stomped designer (from 2002 onwards) down the runway with a was interested in challenging moulded white dress which created a plaster-cast rendering himself to break free from the designer that he had been of the female anatomy, one labelled as, namely one which which was accessorised with revelled in using grotesque a hemline adorned with horse imagery to shock and hair and a brutal-looking challenging the notions metal mouthpiece. Fittingly, of beauty. To simply label this is the one dress amongst McQueen as a ‘showman’ the three that made its way seems unfair considering the into the incredible Savage amount of craftsmanship Beauty exhibition, showing which went into his clothing, that the designer has the so this show seemed to be ability to edit and improve an example of the designer upon his own aesthetic. As bringing his past into the for the other two looks, both spotlight and making some featured the moulded breast of his older collections more corset but both were softened accessible to a wide audience. by the addition of colourful The collection spawned some tribal prints on the lower of McQueen’s most feminine half, adding a delicacy to the pieces and made people overall look. Other highlights acknowledge his iconic back of the show saw Gemma catalogue—a move which Ward modelling a lilac dress established him as one of complete with a puffball fashion’s true icons. skirt and an elaborate gold headpiece, whereas another look was a colourful take on

Isabella Blow with Chinese Garden


From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau






“There’s something... kind of Edgar Allan Poe, kind of deep and kind of melancholic about [my] collections,” ISIS, Spring 2005

Una Rosa, Un Inverno Photographed by Raymond Meier Flair Italy, December 2005



Alexander McQueen clearly enjoyed designing his Autumn/Winter 2005-6 collection and it was certainly fun to watch. There were prim Fifties secretaries in curvy tweed suits, perfect from their set hair to their tiny waist to their Marilyn-esque wiggle. Pencil skirts came to below the knee, sexy sweater dresses showed off every contour and mid-length cocktail dresses had finely pleated skirts, prom-style, or came ruched close to the body—perfect for a rebellious Rizzo moment. With a run of awe-inspiring silver-screen-inspired robes in black, white, red and silver—some topped with sumptuous fur coats—McQueen defied any future designer from ever doing the Hollywood thing any better. Despite his ever-growing fashion power, however, he seemed more laid back than usual, adding a few multicoloured pompom-ed ponchos and blanket-fringed, jackets which inspired Mario Testino in the front row to yell “Peru!” For day there were gorgeous nip-waisted leather jackets, fisherman knit cardigans with woollen corsages and matching skirts, deep cowal-necked belted sweaters and skinny cropped trousers. Add a little leopard print and a pair of spectacles (strictly to be thrown off as the hair is let down), and McQueen has done it again. Vogue, March 2005




Photographed by Regan Cameron Instyle, 2006






“I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” March 2004


The staging was still as spectacular as ever, with the runway becoming an enormous glowing landing pad complete with spaceship. Gigantic video screens projected footage taken from space interspersed with videos of meteors and accompanied by a techno soundtrack—it was instantly clear that McQueen had gone galactic.


announced Alexander McQueen in Paris on Friday before unveiling his latest collection in the Grande Halle de la Villette. Determined that it would be “stripped of all theatrics, so that the focus is purely on design, manufacture and execution”, McQueen avoided his wild signature sensationalism for a show that was surprisingly morose in mood. In the main elegant and wearable, the clothes demonstrated his brilliant tailoring and use of ultra-complicated cuts to create stunning, unique pieces. Refusing to let the palette venture far beyond nude, flesh pink, grey, cream and rust, he gave models an eerily embryonic demeanor by blanking out their faces with foundation and pulling their hair into a tight crown of curls. Slinky jersey Grecian-style dressesgave way to impeccably cut tweed skirt suits, and jumpsuits, while coats appeared as bulging cream waffles, or sumptuous shearling wraps. Later on, cutaway knotted tops and neck pieces had a primitive, tribal appeal, and silk dresses featured huge splashes of floral colour before morphing into stiff puffs of embossed satin. Bereft of his showmanship, McQueen’s talent was more starkly obvious than ever—and for the moment he intends to concentrate it completely on his own label, having turned down the job at YSL Rive Gauche. “It was very wily of me, but I wasn’t in the mood to meet him,” he admitted, when quizzed about no-showing the interview with PPR boss Serge Weinberg. “I wasn’t in the frame of mind to get on the train or fly over to Paris, and when he came here, I still didn’t meet with him. I just had a panic attack, I think.” But never say never. “I am such a fan of Saint Laurent that my heart would break if I damaged that house,” he went on. “It was a major decision not to take that job. I wanted to do it so badly. We discussed my doing the job in the future. Once I get McQueen to a level where I’m comfortable, then I would certainly think about Saint Laurent. But I need to be doing McQueen with my eyes shut.” One thing he does need to do to transform his eponymous label into a global powerhouse, however, is put some effort in to creating accessories—something McQueen has admitted he isn’t particularly keen on: “Do I really want to see Paris Hilton carrying a McQueen bag?” he said. Vogue, March 2004 107

From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau






“There is something sinister, something quite biographical about what I do—but that part is for me. It’s my personal business. I think there is a lot of romance, melancholy. There’s a sadness to it, but there’s romance in sadness. I suppose I am a very melancholy person.” “There is a hidden agenda in the fragility of romance.”




Deliverance, The emotional and physical deterioration Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer in Deliverance is typical of McQueen’s 2004 fashion show was the hit of the season. Based on the 1969 film, They Shoot   work, which frequently explores themes related to violence and decay. Garments, Horses, Don’t They?, Deliverance subverted the typical fashion show narrative by rever- particularly in his early collections, are often intentionally cut and torn and sing the order of presentation; evening his fashion shows have been called a gowns kicked off the extravaganza while “theatrical staging of cruelty.”1 Though faux-homespun daywear and a tarnished evening gown concluded the show. it almost seems counterintuitive, This narrative mirrored the film, which McQueen has expressed a strong interest documents a Depression-era dance in creating a feminine persona that is marathon. In order to earn a cash prize intimidating in its visual power. When the hopeful participants must dance for examined closely, it is easy to view the days with only brief breaks for food FIDM Museum suit as an expression of and short naps. Lack of sleep and food, McQueen’s interest in powerful femininity. paired with non-stop dancing, drives The symmetrical patchwork resembles the dancers to the point of emotional and the patterning of an animal or insect and physical collapse and ends in tragedy. the small flounce at the lower back of the jacket references the stinger of a bee. McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2004 Despite these obvious danger signals, fashion show was a mini-dance marathon the subtle and varied patterning of featuring 20 trained dancers paired with the textiles invites closer inspection, 20 models, all of whom rehearsed for enticing the spectator as a spider lures two weeks. Deliverance began with models an insect to its web. and dancers moving about the dance floor with a sense of eagerness and purNew Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. pose, dressed in delicate gowns. By FIDM Museum 2009 the end of the show, the dancer/models 1 Evans, Caroline. Fashion at the Edge. struggle to stay upright while dressed in patchwork garments representative of their overall decline. Of course, Deliverance was a fashion show presented by Alexander McQueen, so even the patchwork garments were exquisitely crafted. The woman’s suit constructed of men’s cotton shirting seen below appears near the end of the Deliverance, worn by a model slumped on the shoulders of her dancing partner. 115


Kate Moss photographed by Craig McDean AnOther Magazine #6, Spring/Summer 2004






“I’m romantic schizophrenic. Some poeple think I’ve become softer with this Spring collection, but it’s always been in my work. There may be an Edgar Allan Poe romance to it—it’s not a heart-on-your-sleeve type thing—but that’s just my personality. I’ve always been very sensitive, very romantic, but not everyone has seen that.” Harper’s & Queen, April 2003

From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau 121

Andrew Bolton: One of the highlights in this gallery is a dress called the “Oyster” Dress, which is made up of hundreds and hundreds of layers of silk organza, almost like a mille-feuille pastry. And the collection told the story of a shipwreck at sea and the subsequent landfall in the Amazon, and it was peopled with pirates, conquistadors, and Amazonian Indians.

was he drew organic lines. And then all these circles were cut, joined together, and then applied in these lines along the skirt. So you created this organic, oyster-like effect.

Andrew Bolton: He learned softness at Givenchy; he learned draping at Givenchy. And this particular dress, I think, is a real tour de force of the couture and is a great reference to the skills that And I think that what’s interesting McQueen learned at the ateliers about this particular dress is you at Givenchy. see how McQueen evolved as a designer in terms of the fact that In McQueen’s Words “Working in the atelier [at Givenchy] he was always well known as a was fundamental to my career... tailor. With this particular dress, Because I was a tailor, I didn’t you see a much softer approach. totally understand softness, As Sarah Burton explains: or lightness. I learned lightness Sarah Burton: He wanted this at Givenchy. I was a tailor at idea of it—was almost like she Savile Row. At Givenchy, drowned—and the top part of the I learned to soften. For me, it dress is all fine boning and tulle, was an education. As a designer and the chiffon is all frayed and I could have left it behind. But disheveled on the top. The skirt working at Givenchy helped is made out of hundreds and me learn my craft.” hundreds of circles of organza. Purple Fashion, Summer 2007 Then, with a pen, what Lee did 122


Oyster Dress Ivory silk organza, georgette, and chiffon






“I need inspiration. I need something to fuel my imagination and the shows are what sput me on, make me excited about what I’m doing. When you start getting into the mindset where this is a business and you’ve got to bring in money, when you’re designing with a buyer in mind, the collection doesn’t work. The danger is that you lose the creativity that drives you... I want people to see that this is what fashion is about. This is what we’re here for. This is why we’re unique. And


we are unique. There isn’t anyone else doing anything like I do. It’s taken me fifteen years to come up with that concepts as a designer, to become fully aware that what I’m doing is personal to me. I don’t think I always do it for the people in the audience. I do it for the people who see the pictures in the press afterwards, in newspapers and in magazines. I design the shows as stills and I think that if you look at those stills they tell the whole story.” Neiman Marcus Magazine, Autumn/Winter 2003




lexander McQueen has without doubt transformed himself from the one-time enfant   terrible of British fashion into a designer whose imaginative vision and supreme cutting technique put him in line with Parisian masters, past and present. His show on Saturday was as theatrical as it was commercially viable—a combination that, in the present international economic climate, takes considerable genius. Reflecting the world mood, McQueen put his models in desolate, snowcovered surroundings, with some having to battle the elements of an enclosed wind tunnel (giving a 120ft, hand-painted silk cloak all the more drama), before making it to the catwalk. Stiff dirndl skirts, some of which had narrowly pleated layers rippling out from armour-like gold painted over-panels, stuck out stiffly under fitted Alpine jackets with fur running over each shoulder. There was elegance, in spite of the elements, in cleverly draped jersey trousers and a stunning selection of scoop-necked A-line sleeveless dresses, some in chiffon with gathered empire necklines and delicate sequin embroidery. And amid a sober palette of faded burgundy, olive green, grey, silver and metallic gold, there were definite references to Red Army uniform. Then came a legion of black and white, in tailored suits and dresses, as well as postapocalyptic stretchy jumpsuits. Belted jackets and coats in speckled fur or quilted satin and one huge circular cape made of fur pom-poms protected wind-ravaged models in a show that once again haled McQueen as one of today’s finest fashion minds. Vogue March 2003 131

Wind Tunnel, photographer Ann Ray







“I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them.” Self Service, Spring/Summer 2002

“My collections have always been autobiographical, a lot to do with my own sexuality and coming to terms with the person I am—it was like exorcising my ghosts in the collections. They were to do with my childhood, the way I think about life and the way I was brought up to think about life.” British Vogue, October 2002 Les Liaisons de Marie Antoinette Ruffle Corset Dress Photographed by Tim Walker Vogue UK March 2015


Dance of the Twisted Bull was different in some ways to McQueen’s previous work, and to understand why we need to look at the events surrounding the time of its creation. Seemingly impressed by his S/S 2001 masterpiece VOSS, the legendary Gucci group decided to buy a share of McQueen as a company which presented enormous opportunities regarding both funding and expansion. This acquisition took place in December 2000 when the designer would have been midway through the creation of his A/W 2001 collection— essentially making this, his S/S 2002 collection (which can be seen in full here) the first that he made under the provisions of the Gucci group.


This could be one of the reasons that the collection is one of the designer’s most widely-disregarded, and it ushered us into a new era of McQueen’s timeline; one which seemed to be more commercially-driven and, by consequence, less criticallyacclaimed. The increase in budget was clear from the gargantuan video backdrop and the tumbling fountains of smoke that marred the runway, but the collection therefore lacked a lot of the D.I.Y charm that McQueen was renowned for. Like the designer himself, the signature aesthetic had been bronzed, scrubbed and polished resulting in a series of collections that lacked the rough edges which had previously made him the

The show opened with images of a flamenco dancer pounding out a rhythm projected onto a “wall” of dry ice. Out through this miasma strutted a trio of senoritas, attired in almost identical dove gray flamenco dresses, though those dresses were slashed and cut with the unique touch that is McQueen’s. A sense of the absurd has always been one of McQueen’s fortes. This season he whipped up humungous leather bags like giant mushrooms, through which the models put their arms. But his most startling vision was a model in a contessa’s dress, half of which was a man’s jacket, viciously skewered through the middle by two bandilleras.

beloved underdog of the fashion industry. However, a bad collection for McQueen is still a great collection by most standards; as usual the theme was strong, a commentary on the Spanish tradition of bullfighting represented by women in fiery red flamenco dresses and romantically ruffled gypsy blouses. One woman walked the runway with two arrows seemingly penetrating her torso, the fabric of her tiered dress caught on the spikes of the spears that protruded from her spine—a reference to McQueen’s dark sense of humour as well as the danger of the sport. The scarlet hues used throughout were also steeped

in symbolism; they seemed to represent both danger and lust, two themes which are prominent in Spanish culture. Cut-out detailing on dresses left nipples exposed but on the whole the collection was much safer than we, as an audience, had come to expect from McQueen. The work in the dresses was exquisite and some of the results were undeniably beautiful but it’s hard not to feel a little short-changed by this collection—for a man of such innovation to suddenly have to meet sales targets and be commercially-viable seems a shame, and this collection appeared to represent McQueen trying to find his feet in his new role as a ‘brand’ as opposed to a designer. Stylejurno, December 2013 139






“This collection was inspired by Tim Burton. It started off dark and then got more romantic as it went along.” Numéro, July/August 2002

Ensemble Coat: black parachute silk Trouser: black synthetic Hat: black silk satin by Philip Treacy




Casting away

the clothes alone: this was a powerful collection for powerful women. Models appeared in tailored brown all but one of his usual tweed buckled at the waist or theatrical props, McQueen fitted with chestnut leather proved to Paris that his bra cups and holsters, and design can stand on its own super slim pencil skirts were dramatically erotic strengths. teamed with rip-crunching Showing in the shadowy leather corsets, some finishing medieval vaulted hall of the under the bust over 18th Conciergerie, McQueen Century-style under-shirts of couldn’t resist a lone, macabre sheer chiffon that puffed at trick—a vista of a pack of caged A trim McQueen took his bow the sleeves and creased into in a bespoke suit made by the folds at the neck. The seams wolves, and the opening Savile Row tailors, Huntsman. of skin-tight jeans ran with image of a lone figure clad in It seemed like a coming of age. leather piping, down to skina purple leather cape leading “I wanted it to be romantic, a pair of dogs (who looked tight, knee-length leather beautiful,” he said. “Power to more scared than scary). But stiletto boots, while his denim the women! I got fit for this that was just for old times’ dirndl skirts jutted arrogantly and I worked hard for it.” sake. When his models stalkfrom under denim waistcoats, ed out in brown tweed, a hot item for next season. March 2002 tailored to within an inch of The second phase of the their lives, and strapped into collection took a sharp school Alexander McQueen variations on brown leather uniform theme and here his reclaimed his place at the top braces, it was clear McQueen soon-to-be-excluded students of fashion’s tree at the was concentrating on clothes wore grey waistcoats that were weekend, with a stunningly and not theatrics. nipped and plunging, with tough-sexy collection of school girl grey pleated skirts tailored leather and raw His vixenish women had tiny or chalk stripe school boy denim. Showing in the eerie waisted silhouettes done shorts to the knee, knee-length medieval hall of the with amazing attention to cut grey socks, maroon tank tops, Conciergerie, McQueen and detail. Milkmaid stripy ties, and mini grey brought out many of the necklines were pushed up by blazers piped in pink. Being props that have made his own leather bodices that curved house-less, since his move from name shows so theatrical in down into the tightest pencil Givenchy last year, only seems the past, including torture skirts, and finished off with to have improved McQueen, chamber neck-braces and thigh-high leather boots. who took his bow showing off Clockwork Orange bowler McQueen moved from that his own new lithe physique in a Helmut Newton-esque fantasy hats, and added a pack of Huntsman of Savile Row suit. caged wolves to set the to another—bad schoolgirls, macabre mood. Actually, who mixed lingerie and silver Vogue March 2002 the message was clear from lamé ties and skirts in with their proper blazers and duffels. For a splendid finale, he brought out romantic flouncy skirts, an exaggerated puff sleeved black velvet coat and a skirt made of swags of jet beading. Best of all, he’s softened his sometimes severe hand so that the idea of wearing these pieces seems not just possible, but quite appealing.



From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau






“I’ve never aspired to mass production. Because of my training as a tailor, my work involves lots of love and care, which is why so many of my clothes are made by hand here in London. Not to wow the crowd during a show, but because I love it.” Numéro, March 2002


Featuring a heavy-metal soundtrack interspersed with children’s music and horrific goth clowns dancing around a traditional carousel, McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 2001 collection highlighted all of his best-known attributes. Playing on his skills as a showman, the set was dressed up like a gothic fairytale complete with skeletons being dragged across the floor and libidinous models writhing up against the poles of the carousels. As for the clothing itself, the general rule appeared to be ‘the shorter the better.’ Hemlines were hitched up and the mood for the most part of the show was almost aggressively sexual. McQueen also played on the clown make-up of some of the models, showcasing distorted versions of the harlequin checkerboard print in sheer materials as well as metallic golds and shimmering blacks. There was also, naturally, more than a mere hint of leather and chain embellishment—designed to accompany the metal soundtrack, the models walked the runway in cool, punky versions of the LBD with gelled black hair, showing that even the most classic dress formulas can be reworked.


The collection was essentially a nightmare circus set on a roundabout carousel. The collection featured sinister model clowns who wore striking flapper dresses that were trimmed with feathers, cocktail suits and elaborate evening gowns. Conceptoff.blogspot

There was an also an element of the dishevelled about the clothes themselves—hemlines appeared ripped and tattered, whereas flapper dresses and tailored suits were all slightly deconstructed to add a DIY edge. The aim of the show appeared to be to take a slick 1920s aesthetic and subvert it entirely. The flapper girls were present and so were the feathered headpieces (designed by McQueen’s friend, the iconic Philip Treacy) but they were taken and proverbially raped, turning showgirls into strippers and beauty into sleaze.

As a trifecta of red rings began flashing, a carousel of models was revealed in the center of the stage. With clown makeup and ruffled colors, the women carefully stepped off their high horses amid clusters of balloons. They looked every bit the court jester with their hair shaped into tall cones, but McQueen’s collection was certainly no joke. Thedailybeast

Overall, the show displayed a new take on the designer’s notoriously macabre aesthetic. It was a more literal interpretation, one which took a charming 1920s circus and painted it black by injecting a healthy dose of Gothicism into an otherwise romantic setting. It is one of McQueen’s lesser-known shows but one which is still both relevant and influential—for further proof, see Marc Jacobs’ final collection for Louis Vuitton. It may not be down as one of McQueen’s greatest collections, but it is still a fine example that he does horror better than any of his predecessors. Stylejurno December 2013


From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau






“[In this collection] the idea was to turn people’s faces on themselves. I wanted to turn it around and make them think, am I actually as good as what I’m looking at?” The Fashion, Spring/Summer 2001

“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.”



out, the mirrored cube was lit from inside, revealing itself to be a mental-hospital holding cell. The models inside the box could not see the audience, but only their own reflection. The audience was essentially watching the models watch themselves. For ten minutes, the models preened and posed, admiring their own reflections. This The scenario was cruel but staged a solitary performance meaningful; the audience were before the mirror, creating fashion professionals, or, as an intimacy that bordered on the journalist Sarah Mower voyeurism. Demented girls, described it, “A gathering wearing hospital head-bands of the prime arbiters of vanity.” and everything from extraMcQueen reduced the obserordinary mussel-shell skirts to vers to objects, turning their impossibly chic pearl-colored own sharp scrutiny of the cocktail dresses, slithered models back on themselves, and strutted while uselessly highlighting how much the attempting to fly over the model, as well as the clothes, cuckoo’s nest. are objectified in the gaze of the McQueen was at his very best: critics and general public. there were gothic, theatrical The show itself was nothing pieces, like a dress with a minishort of monumental. When ature castle and rat posing as the house lights finally went a shoulder pad; a top made out

The show began deliberately an hour late. The audience were seated around a mirrored box under harsh lighting. They could not see inside the box and were obliged to sit and watch their own reflections, and the people around them. After a while, this self-scrutiny produced an intense and paranoid self-consciousness.


of a jigsaw puzzle; and a huge feathered creation with stuffed eagles suspended over the model’s head, poised to attack a la Hitchcock. But amidst all the insanity, there was a cornucopia of startlingly elegant—and wearable— pantsuits and flouncy party dresses. How to top off such a climactic presentation? After everyone thought it was all over, another cube within the psychiatric ward-cum-runway opened up to reveal a portly nude woman, her face covered by a mask, breathing through a tube, surrounded by fluttering moths. It was truly a shocking and enthralling tableau; Francis Bacon via Leigh Bowery and Lucien Freud. In a word, sublime.

From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau








“I like things to be modern and still have a bit of tradition.” Harper’s Bazaar, April 2003

“I believe in history.” British Vogue, October 2002

“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.” at the Eshu collection, 2000



Neo-orientalism in fashion It was a show notable for a number of things. Firstly, it was McQueen’s first show in Paris fashion week after having shown his collections exclusively in London fashion week thus far—a symbolic move in itself to a globe that took the art of fashion, of sewing and of creation more seriously. Secondly, it was a show that had been preceded by rumours of bombs or PETA violence because of the shows controversial theme. Most importantly, it was a show that was a continuation and a development of a theme explored in his earlier show Nihilism (S/S 1994) and a theme that is still relevant today: the misrepresentation of the ethnic minorities that perpetuate the neo-orientalism so dangerous to the modern mindset. The collection was inspired by the Yoruba tribe and specifically, by a deity called Eshu that often created conflict to test and teach humans, and so the collection showed reworked representations of Yoruba clothing including the orthodontic-looking device that pulled a model’s lips apart into a painful-looking rictus as shown above. Of the collection, McQueen himself said “[It] was a reaction to designers romanticising ethnic dressing, like the Masai-inspired dress made of materials the Masai could never afford.” When Edward Said wrote his book ‘Orientalism’, he was addressing the motives of colonisation—both economic (as prescribed by Karl Marx) and nationalistic—in shaping the study of the ‘Orient’ or the MiddleEastern/Asian cultures that fundamentally changed the way they were viewed as an ‘other’, creating the alterity that separated the savages from the civilised westerners. To some extent, McQueen’s ironic statement by himself appropriating the Yoruba clothing in extremes addresses the crass commercialisation of culture in the economic motives that have shaped the representation of minorities in fashion. In this way, it is a statement on the Neo-orientalism that has shaped cultural appropriation in fashion as Orientalism shaped western perception in the 1800s, where the profit margin relegates complex cultures to exotic ‘others’, the timelessness of McQueen’s statement underscored by Victoria Secret’s 2013 ‘Sexy Little Geisha’ abomination collection. The question remains, was McQueen successful in separating himself from this movement, even in his self-conscious acknowledgement to it? The meta-fashion that McQueen practices—fashion reflecting on fashion—perhaps saves him through his awareness. I find his obsession with the ‘Noble Savage’ incredibly interesting, and will perhaps explore it more thoroughly in another segment. Somethingvain 171


Photographed by Nick Knight Styled by Katy England AnOther Magazine, Spring/Summer 2015





“[The finale of this collection] was inspired by an installation by artist Rebecca Horn of two shotguns firing blood-red paint at each other.” Style, South China Morning Post, September 2007

“It was really carefully choreographed. It took a week to program the robots.” ArtReview, September 2003

White cotton muslin spray-painted black and yellow with underskirt of white synthetic tulle. 176



Savage Beauty 2000–2011   The Metropolitan Museum of Art Andrew Bolton: In one of the most memorable moments at McQueen’s runway shows, two robots spray-painted a dress worn by the model Shalom Harlow. Here we talk to Shalom about the experience.

And when they were finished, they sort of receded and I walked, almost staggered, up to the audience and splayed myself in front of them with complete abandon and surrender.

It almost became this like aggreShalom Harlow: I walked right up ssive sexual experience in some way. to it and stood on top of this And I think that this moment circular platform. And as soon as really encapsulates, in a way, how I gained my footing, the circular Alexander related to—at least at platform started a slow, steady this particular moment—related to rotation. And it was almost like the creation. Is that all of creation? mechanical robots were stretching Is that the act of a human-being and moving their parts after an being created, the sexual act? Is it extended period of slumber. And the act of, you know, the Big Bang, as they sort of gained consciousness, if you will, that violence and they recognized that there was that chaos and that surrender that another presence amongst them, takes place? and that was myself. Alexander and I didn’t have any And at some point, the curiosity conversation directly related to switched, and it became slighthis particular piece and to tly more aggressive and frenetic creating this moment within his and engaged on their part. And an show. I like to think that he agenda became solidified somehow. wanted to interfere as little as And my relationship with them possible and allow me to have shifted at that moment because I the most genuine, spontaneous started to lose control over my own experience as possible. experience, and they were taking over. So they began to spray and paint and create this futuristic design on this very simple dress. 179







“Oh, there have been some right old moments! That show, I had Miguel Adrover chucking more and more snow into the wind machine, with me shouting, ‘More snow, more, more! I want it to be like a snow-shaker!” at the Overlook collection, 1999

“Coiled” Corset Aluminum



he models were trapped in a box filled with whistling wind; snow was falling down and created the ambiance of an eerie snow globe. In the middle of the runway there was an ice skating rink. McQueen always loved to add visual components to his shows. He was a designer whose love for theatre shined through in his settings as he referenced many different aspects of film, music, and the arts. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining, McQueen named his show

after the film’s haunted hotel, The Overlook. McQueen referenced the redhead twins, including a direct allusion to the film’s infamous characters in the collection. The models all had dark brown wigs, long thin faces, which strike a similarity with the protagonist’s wife, Wendy Torrance. White makeup was smeared across the eyes of the models and symbolized Wendy’s blindness to her husband’s progressing insanity. The pure color also represents snow, Winter, and goodness. The last scene of the movie shows Jack Torrance chasing 186

his son Danny around a maze. A tumultuous snowstorm was in the air. Frostbitten and running for his life, Danny outsmarted his inarticulate, frenzied father. Jack was left frozen, a victim of Mother Nature. The clothes personified the storm. There were crystal tops, luxurious furs, opulent jacquards, and skirts that had as much detailing as a snowflake. Many times McQueen has channeled the Sublime in his collections. Andrew Bolton explains, “One of the reasons why he loved nature so much was because it was so unpre-

dictable. It is spontaneous; it is something one can never control, and I think that was always something he liked to show in his collections.” McQueen will be forever known as a designer unafraid to take daring steps. He gathered his inspiration from the most arbitrary of places. The magnificent masterpieces of both McQueen and Kubrick make a wonderful analogy. McQueen’s unconvential fashion was his medium to relate his innermost emotions, ideas, and feelings. He used his collections to challenge the feelings of others. 187

From Love Looks Not With The Eyes, photographer Anne Deniau



“It’s important to look at death because it is a part of life. It is a sad thing, melancholic but romantic at the same time. It is the end of a 190

cycle–everything has to end. The cycle of life is positive because it gives room for new things.” Alexander McQueen



LONG LIVE MCQUEEN McQueen will be forever known as a designer unafraid to take daring steps. He gathered his inspiration from the most arbitrary of places. The magnificent masterpieces of both McQueen and Kubrick make a wonderful analogy. McQueen’s unconvential fashion was his medium to relate his innermost emotions, ideas, and feelings. He used his collections to challenge the feelings of others. With every collection he pushed the boundaries of fashion. He always used his imagination stating that, “When you design with a buyer in mind, the collection doesn’t work. The danger is that you lose the creativity that drives you.” We are all aware that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. stopdropandvogue 193



Alaïa 73

Dai Rees 11

Isabella Blow 10, 74, 82, 91

Alexandra Shulman 67

Daniel Jackson 32

Issy Blow 50

Alfred Hitchcock 12, 162

Dante 11

American Express 12

David Bowie 11

Anderson & Sheppard 10

Dazed & Confused 41

Andrew Bolton. 27, 122, 170,

Drapers 25

179, 187

Ann Ray 132,133 Anne Deniau 28, 68, 108, 121, 148, 156, 163, 188 Another Magazine 89,173 Aretha Franklin 75 ArtReview 176

B Balenciaga 12 Bergdorf Goodman 11 Bermans & Nathans 10 Big 57, 80

E Earthling 11

J Jack Torrance 187 Joel-Peter Witkin 12 John Galliano 11 Joyce Barbara McQueen 26 Julia Margaret Cameron 64

Edgar Allan Poe 121 Elizabeth How 50 Eonnagata 12 Evan Caroline 115

F FIDM Museum 115

K Karl Marx 171 Kate Middleton 13 Kate Moss 13, 83, 116, 11 Katy England 11, 173 Koji Tatsuno 10

British colonialism 43


British Designer of the Year 11

Geisha 26

La Poupée 11

British Fashion Council 11

Gemma Ward 84, 90

La Villette 35

Brother Grimm 154

Gibo 11

LBD 154

Bumster 12

Gieves & Hawkes 10

Liya Kebede 32

Givenchy 11, 90, 122

Louis Vuitton 155

Grande Halle de la Villette 107

LVMH (Moët Hennessy

Gucci 12, 90, 138

Louis Vuitton 12

Björk 12

C C.S Lewis 43 Carmen 75 Central Saint Martins College




of Art and Design 10

Hadyn 43

Marc Jacobs 155

Christian Dior 11

Harper’s & Queen 121

Marilyn Manson 18, 26

Cleopatra 59

Harper’s Bazaar 64,169

Masai 171

Commander of the British Empire

Helmut Lang 11

Miguel Adrover 185

(CBE) 13

Henry VIII 41

Miranda Almond 26

Conceptoff 154

Highland Rape 10, 83

Mozart 43

Council of Fashion Designers

Highland 84

of America (CFDA) 12, 13

Huntsman 13,144

Cruella de Vil 27 194





Union Jack 11

Naomi Filmer 11

Sadler’s Wells 12

Neiman Marcus Magazine 129

Saint Laurent 107

New York Times 73,105

Sam Taylor-Wood 12, 64

Nick Knight 12, 173

Sarah Burton 13, 122

Nihilism 10, 171

Sarah Mower 162

Nirvana .43

Sarajane Hoare 10

Vivienne Westwood 12

Norbert Schoerner 12

Savage Beauty 90,122, 179

Vogue 10, 26, 35, 43, 50,

Norman Hartnell 43

Savile Row 10, 13, 122, 144

58, 67, 75, 83, 107, 131,

Numéro 41, 144,153

Self Service 137

137, 147, 169

Serge Weinberg 107

Vogue Nippon 18, 32

O Onward Kashiyama 11 Ouija board 58


Shalom Harlow 179 Shaun Leane 11 Sir Hardy Amies 43

Wind Tunnel 132,133 WWD 16

Stanley Kubrick 186 Stella McCartney 12 Style South China 176

Paris Hilton 107 144

Paul Smith 11

Stylejurno 139,155

Peeping Tom 10

Suzi Quatro 75

PETA 171

Sylvie Guillem 12

Philip Treacy 50, 91, 144, 155

Purple Fashion 64,122


W 49

Stanely Kubrick 12

Pantheon As Lecum 102

Punk 84


Somethingvain 171

Stopdropandvogue 193

Prince William 13

V&A 11

Sex Pistols 84

Palais Omnisport 26, 50

Pier Paolo Pasolini 12


T The Fashion 160


Yale University 115 Yoruba 171 YSL Rive Gauche 107 Yves Saint Laurent 12

Z Zenith 58

The Metropolitan Museum 27, 122,179 The Premiere Collection 10 The Shining 186

Ravel 139

TheyDailyBeast 155

Rebecca Horn 176

Tim Burton 144

Robert Paguet 50

Tim Walker 137

Romeo Gigl 10

Tina Turner 75


No Part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without permission from the publisher, except in the context of reviews. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions. Editor

Hannah Ahn Designer

Hannah Ahn Special thanks to Eric Baker @2015 Hannah Ahn. All rights reserved. 196





Alexander McQueen  

Editorial design for legendary fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. This editorial retrospective spans the beginning of his career to his l...

Alexander McQueen  

Editorial design for legendary fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. This editorial retrospective spans the beginning of his career to his l...