12 February 2010

Alexander McQueen 1969 - 2010



British Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen Dies
11th February, 2010

By Christina Passariello and Paul Sonne

Alexander McQueen was one of the last designers who believed that fashion is an art—a master of the gothic and theatric who often bemoaned the constraints on his creativity, as he struggled to adapt to an industry that is becoming ever-more commercial amid pressure to make products that sell.

New York City's fashion week begins with a somber note on news that iconoclast designer Alexander McQueen had died. WSJ's Elva Ramirez gets reaction from the fashion-show attendees at Bryant Park.

The provocative British designer died at his apartment in London Thursday, his company said, shocking the fashion world which was gathering in New York for the beginning of the season's international fashion shows. The 40-year-old was due to present his collection in Paris in less than a month.

"Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, has been found dead at his home," the brand's parent company, Gucci Group, said in a statement, referring to the designer by his first name. He began using Alexander, his middle name, when he got into fashion in the 1990s. "We are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee's family," the company said.

Though they didn't release Mr. McQueen's name, the police confirmed the death of a 40-year-old man on Green Street in the Mayfair area of central London, where Mr. McQueen lived, on Thursday. An ambulance service had been called to the address in the morning. The police are treating the death as nonsuspicious, but plan to carry out a post-mortem examination, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said, confirming that suicides can fall into that classification.

Mr. McQueen's death also leaves Gucci Group with a decision over how to continue with a fashion house that was so interlinked with its founder's name. Since Gucci bought a 51% of the brand in 2000, the company has struggled to make money, becoming profitable only as of 2007.

The brand is very small compared to the group's flagship Gucci brand. Still, thanks to Mr. McQueen's acclaim among the fashion world, the company was a small jewel of the Gucci holdings, which belong to French retail-to-luxury group PPR SA. Among Gucci's other holdings are fashion houses Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, in addition to jeweler Boucheron. Gucci had no comment on the future of the fashion house.

Mr. McQueen was best known lately for his dramatic designs, such as reptilian dresses and hoof-like shoes that were met with critical acclaim among the glamorous runways of the fashion world. But the designer's roots were far from the milieu where he eventually became a star. Born in east London in 1969, Mr. McQueen was the youngest of six children whose father was a taxi driver. He quit school at age 16 to take up an apprenticeship across town on tony Savile Row, where he learned classic English tailoring at Gieves & Hawkes and Anderson & Sheppard.

Mr. McQueen's bold creativity became evident when he enrolled in London's prestigious fashion school Central St. Martin's in 1992. The entire collection he produced for his master's thesis was bought by English style icon Isabella Blow—a remarkable accomplishment for a young graduate.

At the young age of 27, Mr. McQueen was appointed as the designer of French fashion house Givenchy, whose muse Audrey Hepburn brought the house fame. The same year, in 1996, Mr. McQueen won the British Designer of the Year award—an accolade he received three more times.

"His ability to cut was parallel to someone like Christian Dior," said Mark Henderson, chief executive of Gieves & Hawkes. "He had the most amazing natural ability." A stint at theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans planted the seed for dramatic fashion shows later in his career.
Designers React to McQueen's Death
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New York City's fashion week begins with a somber note on news that iconoclast designer Alexander McQueen had died. WSJ's Elva Ramirez gets reaction from the fashion-show attendees at Bryant Park.

Mr. McQueen recently wrote on his Twitter feed that he had been traumatized by the death of his mother on Feb. 3. On the feed, where he revealed the news, he wrote, "but life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" However, four days later he wrote, "been a f___ awful week but my friends have been great but now I have to some how [sic] pull myself together and finish with the," trailing off at the end.

In New York, the news of his death broke during the BCBG Max Azria fashion show. Anna Wintour, the influential editor-in-chief of Vogue and one of Mr. McQueen's supporters, rushed out of the show. She declined to comment.

Designer Richard Chai learned of the news as he was preparing for his 11 a.m. show at Bryant Park. "He was a genius. I really have no words," he said.

Paul Smith, the British designer known for his use of colorful stripes, mourned his young protégé's death. Mr. Smith said he gave Mr. McQueen advice during the early part of his career. "He was a very talented and creative designer, especially in respect of his tailored clothing," said Mr. Smith.

—Rachel Dodes and Ray A. Smith contributed to this article.
Write to Christina Passariello at christina.passariello@wsj.com

Alexander McQueen Tributes
Tributes to Alexander McQueen have poured in from both inside and outside the fashion world after his death was announced yesterday.

Published: Telegraph.co.uk 7:30AM GMT 12 Feb 2010

Naomi Campbell, the supermodel described by McQueen as his "muse", said: "I am truly devastated to lose my close friend.
"His talent had no boundaries and he was an inspiration to everyone who worked with him and knew him.
"This is a sad day for all who loved him around the world and my condolences are with his family. I will miss him so much, he will never be forgotten."

Kate Moss, who was McQueen's "bridesmaid" when he "wed" his partner, film-maker George Forsyth, in 2000, released the following statement: "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."

Forsyth, who later split with McQueen, told a newspaper: "I'm completely numb. I can't believe this."

Cheryl Cole, who last year chose to wear a dress designed by McQueen to her birthday party, said: "My heart goes out to Alexander's family and friends at this unbelievably sad and tragic time.
"Fashion has lost one of its most talented and inspirational figures."

Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, referring to the designer by his given first name, said: "Lee McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers.
"His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs.
"At one level he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashion shows that mixed design, technology and performance and on another he was a modern-day genius whose gothic aesthetic was adopted by women the world over.
"His death is the hugest loss to anyone who knew him and for very many who didn't."

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, said: "We are devastated to learn of the death of Alexander McQueen, one of the greatest talents of his generation.
"He brought a uniquely British sense of daring and aesthetic fearlessness to the global stage of fashion. In such a short career, Alexander McQueen’s influence was astonishing – from street style, to music culture and the world’s museums. His passing marks an insurmountable loss."

Helena Bonham Carter, the actress, whose husband Tim Burton worked with McQueen said: "It's absolutely tragic. It's just horrendous to think that someone was so devastated by his mother dying.
"I loved McQueen. Tim did some drawings for one of his shows, did a shirt with him together.
"He had such lovely vision, originality comes quite hard these days."

Victoria Beckham told a newspaper: "We have all lost a true great.
"McQueen was a master of fashion, creative genius and an inspiration. Today the fashion industry has lost a true great. An icon of all time.
"He made all he touched beautiful and will be desperately missed. My heart is very much with his family and friends at this very sad time."

John Hitchcock, managing director of Anderson and Sheppard, the Savile Row tailor where McQueen began his career, said: "We are very sad, the people he worked with are all upset about it.
"He started here when he was 16 as an apprentice learning to make jackets. He was obviously very good and had a flair for ladies' work, although we are a men's tailors.
"He had potential, other people saw that in him and he went on to bigger things, it was marvellous. Either you've got the eye or you haven't in fashion.
"Most ladies have worn something inspired by McQueen. I would like to say thank you to him for his influence in giving young people an interest in tailoring."

Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, said: "Alexander McQueen made an outstanding contribution to British fashion.
"His extraordinary talent and creativity mean that his designs are adored not just by followers of haute couture but lovers of great style everywhere.
"This is a great loss to one of Britain's most successful industries and to the design world more widely."
Fellow designers also paid their tributes.

A spokesman for Dame Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, said she was "incredibly sorry" to hear the news.

Karl Lagerfeld said: “I only knew him very little but I knew his work well.
“I found his work very interesting, never banal”.
But, he added: “There was always a bit of an attraction to death, it was a bit dehumanised.”
“Who knows, perhaps by constantly flirting with death, death ends up attracting you,” he said.

Zandra Rhodes said: "First of all it's a tremendous shock, and more than anything it reveals to me the terrible pressures that anyone in the fashion world, even if they are spectacularly succesful, are under. The pressure is always there.
"I think I would put him up there with the top group of designers. He produced some extremely succesful shows."

Sir Paul Smith told Drapers magazine: "Obviously, like everyone, I am extremely shocked at this sad news.
"I have known Lee since his time at Central Saint Martins and gave him advice in the early part of his career. He was a very talented and creative designer, especially in respect of his tailored clothing. This is a very sad time and my thoughts are with his family."

Matthew Williamson said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened by McQueen's death. He was a genius and his talent was second to none.
"Like many others, I always cited him as a hugely inspirational leader of world fashion. He will be greatly missed."

Katharine Hamnett added: "He was a genius. What a terrible, tragic waste."

Sophie Ellis Bextor, the singer, said McQueen was "incredibly talented".
She said: "It's very shocking. It's sad when anyone feels that alone but particularly someone who is so talented and seemingly has so much to live for. I'm just thinking of his friends and family."

Bill Nighy, the actor, said: "I was an admirer of his and he was a very, very gifted man. It's a terrible tragedy."

Myleene Klass, the model and TV presenter, said she McQueen would be remembered for "the life he lived, not how he died".
She added: "I am a huge fan. It's a really, really sad day. I've only just started out as a designer myself and the guy was a huge inspiration.
"It's so tragic. He was a fantastic representative of our country and the fashion industry so it's exceptionally sad."

Jonathan Ross, the presenter, said: "It's horrible news. I never knew him but I thought he was an inspirational, brilliant designer. He was one of the best that we had."

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Costume V. Wear-ability

Alexander McQueen was part of the overlong and ongoing celebration of the Costumier as replacement of the legitimate Couturier. Instead of focusing upon the needs of the Haute Couture patron, the houses opt for creations suited for seemingly endless stage and film productions, where reality is little considered, if at all. Haute Couture and High Fashion generally, is a fine line walk between what is wearable and what is Costume. It is the Master Couturier and Designer who in the past would have relegated most of Mr. McQueen's work to the trash heap through very careful editing thinking first and foremost of their patron and client. While Mr. McQueen’s death, as a result of a yet-to-be-confirmed suicide is extremely sad, I am struck by the majority of comments regarding his work as “ugly” and “grotesque” with which I largely agree. However, he was celebrated (as is that other Costumier posing as a Couturier John Galliano), for his “art-for-art’s-sake” creations and sensibility. While Mr. McQueen left the realm of Haute Couture to focus upon the High-End world of luxe Ready-to-Wear (and a hoped-for broader market appeal which never transpired), bringing with him the identical gothic view, which is a limited market at best, his work, along with far too many collections these days, begs the question “who is the client for such absurd and un-wearable work?” Because of what is in the end, a limited view and fantasy, his hoped-for broader success was doomed from the get go.


I always recall viewing an F.I.T. event in which he stated he never quite understood the relationship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, which says a lot about what passes for creative genius today. Who would rather view work by Mr. McQueen than M. Givenchy? But this too appears to be the commitment towards the contempt for and destruction of elegance and beauty. It is amazing to me how awful most women look today; there appear to be more fashion victims than Women of Style. Too many women have opted to look downright frightening than elegant and chic and don’t seem to realize what eyesores they really are.


To my view, Mr. McQueen’s work is precisely what is wrong with the global fashion business. Endless Costumes ignoring the needs of the contemporary Woman of Style, for a splash in the media, such as the infinitely tiresome pages of Advance Publications “Vogue” and “W”. I have long found it hilarious that the over-exposed Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, for example never once has donned the absurd and ugly creations she advances in the pages of Vogue, always opting for work more wearable from the likes of Chanel. I for one would have welcomed film footage of her walking around Manhattan or taking the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in either an Alexander McQueen or John Galliano for Christian Dior. Another example of do as I say not as I do I suppose.


To Mr. McQueen’s credit, he did offer some very beautiful creations in a few of his collections, but they were so small in number, and therefore overshadowed by his uglier and often more impractical creations.


To this end, I would welcome examples from those who view Mr. McQueen’s work as “ugly” and “grotesque”. Who is producing clothes that you admire and that you either wear or would like to wear?



CS

1 comment:

  1. Hi there - I understand and empathize with your gripes regarding the wearability of some of the fashion houses featured in the fashion mags, but isn't that different from haute couture? HC is not about practicality, nor do I think it ever was; it is more closely tied to personal fantasies and expressions than anything mundane. While I would love to see fewer bum-high skirts and more suitable knee-length dresses as I am nearly 40 now, I don't want to see HC go the way of a lot of staid middle-aged ladies. Christian Lacroix, Alexander McQueen - to me they represented beautiful artistic fantasies whose absence we should all mourn. I hope Christian Lacroix at least stages a return. There is literally no one else left at the moment...I hope there is a young McQueen or Lacroix budding in the wings. :)

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