Lee Alexander McQueen was an inspiration to me and the first designer to spark my interest. His collections spoke so clearly, every look was thoroughly styled and each item worn helped to tell the story, nothing was thrown on or there by chance. He taught me that it wasn’t just clothes it is fashion and that fashion is an art form as powerful as any other. I suppose it is fitting that the first time I saw an Alexander McQueen piece was in an art gallery. It was The National Gallery of Victoria and standing there looking at the work of a man who had lit a fire inside of me, I cried – even bad bitches cry. To see a garment by the very same designer who had opened my eyes to fashion as an art form, displayed alongside of, and surrounded by both classic and modern masterpieces had a big impact on me. It reassured me that I wasn’t the only one who felt such a passion for fashion and that there is no reason that it should not be respected and applauded.
On the morning of his New York Fashion Week show in 2010 the designer was found hanging from his favourite brown belt by his house keeper. True to his dark, dramatic style on the runway, McQueen had also taken an overdose of cocaine, tranquillisers and other substances and brutally slashed his wrists with a ceremonial dagger and a meat cleaver. He had attempted suicide twice before and had a longstanding diagnosis of various mental //- health issues. Unfortunately, like so many great artists before him, this world took its toll on him and quickly wore him down. Some people feel every emotion with such a deep intensity that they can live a whole life of feelings, both ups and downs, in what is actually a very short span in comparison to most. McQueen was 40 at the age of passing.
His designs were revolutionary and his shows were always a spectacular showcase of fashion theatre. He heavily incorporated gothic symbolism and dark elements within his work and his skull print scarves became a must have accessory for fashion conscious A-listers. Always one to push boundaries and shock his audiences, a McQueen show was always guaranteed to be more than just a showcase of his designs. One collection featured a model on a rotating dias being squirted with streams of paint from robotic guns as she revolved, another had a glass box which while unlit on the inside looked like a mirror. After the audience had been made to stare at their reflections for an hour the box was lit to reveal a model on a sun lounge, her face covered by a gas mark and surrounded by thousands of live moths. But these would have been nothing in terms of shock value compared to his reported plans for his final ever collection – to shoot him self on the runway.
Lee worked as the creative director of Givenchy for 5 years before stepping out on his own and creating Alexander McQueen, the brand. To do so after only a short amount of time working under someone else inspired me to also work for myself as a freelance artist and to build my own brand rather than have what I do be credited to and help grow somebody else’s business. The visionary is responsible for so much of my own personal brand identity and how I operate professionally.
His designs, and he himself, were a huge hit in celebrity circles. Nicole Richie would not be seen without a McQueen Skull scarf at one stage, he partied with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and Lady Gaga was a McQueen devotee, just see the film clip for Bad Romance which could be used as a catalogue for his fashion forward designs, including his iconic armadillo heels that really are a work of art. His death sent Hollywood into mourning and his funeral was a star studded, high fashion event.
His legacy will forever remain in the garments he created and the out of this world, theatrical runway shows that he produced, his spirit will live on in people like me, inspired and besotted by one of fashions greatest icons.