All any of us can hope for in life is that we leave some kind of legacy when it’s over. Few people have had the kind of impact on the fashion industry like that of the late Alexander McQueen, and although sadly the fashion house has to continue without his talent and direction, Sarah Burton, the new Creative Director and former long standing Head of Design, and her team are doing a sensational job and I foresee her taking the label from strength to strength.
Lee Alexander McQueen was born into a working class family in East London, and retained his deliciously defiant, ‘rough around the edges’ streak as his star began to rise (he is rumoured to have stitched an obscene message into the sleeve lining of a suit he worked on for Prince Charles while working at Savile Row). He announced his intention to become a fashion designer as a child, when he used to make dresses for his three sisters. He later applied to be a tutor at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, but after the Head of the Masters spotted his portfolio he was asked to enrol as a student. Isabella Blow, a prominent figure in the industry, bought his whole graduate collection, and encouraged him to drop ‘Lee’ from his name for professional use.
One of the reasons I’ve always been a great fan of his work is the sheer drama of it all – I absolutely adore when designers put on a show and I love the theatrics and shock tactics he used; it was about making a production, making people think, surprising and astonishing them. He pushed the boundaries in the most glorious and empowering ways, including using a double amputee model with hand-carved wooden legs. If you read my blog regularly you may be aware of the fact I love a good suit, be it on a male or female, and few knew about perfect tailoring like McQueen. After all, he started as an apprentice on Savile Row.
The designer tragically took his own life in 2010, sending shockwaves through the fashion world and devastating those who loved him. Many celebrities paid tributes; Victoria Beckham called him a “master of fashion, creative genius and an inspiration”, and a rep for Kate Moss said: Kate is shocked and devastated at the tragic loss of her dear friend Lee McQueen. Her thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”. Kate Middleton is emerging as a champion of McQueen’s designs, and it has just been announced that the Queen is honouring Sarah Burton with an OBE (which comes nine years after Alexander McQueen himself received a CBE), cementing the label as a staple of British society, and long may it’s outstanding contribution to the fashion industry continue.
Spring 2009 Menswear
A piece from Sarah Burton’s first collection for McQueen