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Quick Facts

Founded in: 1992
Headquarters: in London, UK
Company Website: alexandermcqueen.com
Where to Find: Store Locator

Alexander McQueen was an English fashion designer, who took the world by storm with his unique and sleek designs. He worked for Givenchy, Gucci, and his own personal brand for many years. While he stood in the light of controversy for the way he dressed women, he proudly brandished being an advocate for women’s rights and anti-misogyny. He is a staple name for breaking all the rules of fashion, and delivering innovative and raw art pieces with every show he put out.

History and Background

Lee Alexander Mcqueen described himself as the “pink sheep” of his family, a misfit but never rejected. From a young age, he was always interested in clothes. As the youngest of his large family, he would make dresses for his three older sisters as fun experimentation. His earliest interest in design sparked when he was 3 years old, and drew dresses on his wall. It is also noted that he was always interested in birds, and a large number of his motifs in his later career would represent this childhood fascination.

A Portrait of Alexander McQueen

At the age of 16, Lee Alexander left school and took a course in tailoring at Newham College, before serving an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard. He then worked for Gleves and Hawkes as a pattern cutter. Even from these apprenticeships, he was already earning himself a name as someone who was an expert in his craft and made amazing tailoring that accentuated its wearer.

Not Too Cool For School

When he was 21 years old, he applied to teach pattern cutting at Central Saint Martins College in London but was rejected as he was too young. It was at this time, Bobby Hillson, the head of the Master’s course there, urged him to apply as a student instead. He did, and in 1992 he received his Master’s in Fashion Design. At his graduation collection, he made a slam with his show titled “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims” which turned out to be a major success and was bought by Isabella Blow in its entirety.

Alexander McQueen’s “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims”

Early Career Life

Isabella Blow was in a lot of ways his mentor, persuading him to use his middle name when he decided to pave his way into the industry. She used the contacts and style knowledge she had to lift McQueen to where he could make a name for himself.

After his graduation, he lived in Blow’s basement while he grew his label. He had his first collection organized by the British Fashion Council and presented them in a hotel room at the Ritz.

The “McQueen Curve Bag”

The first professional runway show for Alexander McQueen was in 1994, for his Nihilism collection. This show was the beginning of his controversial career, gaining him names like “L’Enfant terrible” and “the hooligan of English fashion”.

Runways Galore

McQueen participated in a multitude of runways, from his debut in 1992 to his post-humous in 2010. In the womenswear catwalk lines alone, he organized and designed 36 different catwalks. One of his most famous was titled the Highland Rape.

A model from Alexander McQueen’s “Dante” collection

Highland Rape Runway

In 1995, McQueen debuted an autumn collection called the Highland Rape, which he described as referring to the rape of Scotland by the English. Of course, viewers and articles assumed his designs were misogynistic, and glamorizing rape. With some of his models wearing torn clothes with splatters of fake blood, he noted that he aimed to empower women with his designs, and wanted people to be afraid of his runway models.

Tizer Bailey modeling for Alexander McQueen’s “Highland Rape” collection

In 1997, McQueen debuted a collection for his La Poupee runway by having a model dressed in metal restraints, which caused critics to assume he was referring to slavery.

Collection No. 13

For Alexander McQueen’s 13th runway, he titled it No. 13. The showcase was a deceptively elegant experience, with Shalom Harlow as one of his main models. The collection was hosted in a warehouse, nothing as special as what would occur to the onlookers at the show.

For his final piece, he had Shalom on a wooden turntable in a white tulle dress, elegantly posing. Out of nowhere, two robotic arms began spraying her down in green and yellow paint, causing her to dramatically cover her face and shift to keep her balance on the rotating platform.

Shalom Harlow, sporting a white tulle dress in Alexander McQueen’s “No. 13” Show

By the end of that particular performance, her once white dress became that of street art. Critics have described the experience as being lulled into a false sense of security. The robotic arms were there for the whole show but only used at the very end, shocking everyone present. The photos captured that night have been described as some of the most innovative and remarkable fashion imagery to date.

The Givenchy Job

Lee Alexander was made head designer of Givenchy in 1996 to replace John Galliano. This was seen as a risky move since Givenchy had always held itself to a standard of elegance, and McQueen regularly challenged fashion ‘rules’. McQueen said that he had “toned down” his designs for Givenchy, which resulted in his 1997 Greek mythology collection being described as a failure.

Alexander McQueen’s ‘97 Collection design from “The Search for the Golden Fleece”

In 2001, Alexander chose to leave Givenchy behind, stating that it constrained his creativity, and he had different visions for his future.

Lee Alexander McQueen and Shaun Leane, with who he worked closely

The Gucci Purchase

In the year 2000, a year before his departure from Givenchy, the Gucci Group purchased a 51% stake in Alexander McQueen and was determined to push his brand and fashion all over the world.

Alexander McQueen’s “Short Story Bag”

They opened stores in Milan and New York, with plans to expand to Paris and every major fashion capital. With the support of one of the biggest fashion-based conglomerates, McQueen sought to bring more fantasy and magic to his designs.

Celebrity Stylings

The Alexander McQueen brand was a celebrity staple. It was worn by Monica Brown, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, and even Rihanna.

McQueen was given the chance to design for a MAC promotion, where he chose his inspiration from the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor movie, “Cleopatra”. The designs for this were extremely elegant, with the models sporting intense makeup in the classic Egyptian styles of teals and golds.

The Alexander McQueen “Four Ring Bag”

He also famously produced articles of clothing for singers like David Bowie and Bjork, which were shown on their tours and album covers.

Even off the runway, Alexander McQueen was not relieved of controversial opinions. In 2004, he designed a leather piece for Janet Jackson’s Superbowl halftime. This caused an incident where her breast was briefly exposed due to a wardrobe malfunction.

The Savage Beauty Collection: Remembering an Icon

In the Spring and Summer of 2011, the Met hosted a posthumous exhibit for the recently deceased Lee. The collection was titled “Savage Beauty” and is still one of if not the most popular exhibit ever showcased in the Met’s history.

A photo from the iconic Alexander McQueen exhibition at the VA Museum

It was such a moving exhibit, thousands of fans rallied and pooled funds to make the exhibit a traveling occurrence, which in turn was hosted in London, where it became one of the most popular exhibits there as well.

All About Bags

The McQueen Curve Bag

 

While Alexander McQueen may be a heavily clothing-based fashion brand, no look of theirs would be complete without a killer bag to go alongside it.

One of their bags is the Alexander McQueen Curve bag, a beautiful bucket bag that features a simplistic cross design. The bag is made of 100% calf leather and has an adjustable strap perfect for crossbody designs. Its top has a magnet, letting the leather keep its shape while not compromising space.

The Short Story bag

 

The Alexander McQueen short story bag is another smaller design. It’s a rectangular handbag, with a simplistic design that makes it perfect for a day out. The bag is made of 100% calf leather, a seeming staple of the McQueen brand.

Its design features a bold complementary color on the side, depending on the color you choose. The original one is black, with a red feature.

It is the alteration of a previous line that McQueen had released, called the Tall Story Bag. Both of these are designs based on the original story bag, which is a larger handbag with a crossbody strap.

The Four Ring Bag

 

Something to note about the four ring bag is the design. A deceivingly simple clutch that features brass knuckles. It sits in a perfect place, somewhere your fingers will naturally drift to when holding your bag.

Luckily if you don’t want to hold your bag the entire time, it has a comfortable strap that can be adjusted to suit your height and comfort.

The Skull Clutch

 

If you’re looking for a more artistic clutch to take on your errands, then the skull bag could be for you. With its wide variety in textures and designs, most of them feature a painted-looking bold “McQueen” on the front, making it unforgettable as an Alexander McQueen branded bag.

Other’s in its line has a more textured leather, and the rest have stones covering its entire exterior.

Alexander McQueen Repair Information

If you visit the Alexander McQueen website, under the Client Services section, there is a form available for your repair needs and further questions.

Alexander McQueen offers complimentary shipping for approved repairs and has a system to keep you up to date on your current orders and issues. It is unknown if they offer free international shipping.

Alexander McQueen Trivia

• Alexander McQueen won British Designer of the year a total of 4 times between the years ‘96 and ‘03

• In 2003, McQueen was awarded International Designer of the Year, and in the same year was appointed Commander (CBE) by the Queen of England.

• Alexander McQueen was briefly married in 2000 and hosted his wedding in Ibiza where Kate Middleton was a bridesmaid

• Among many impressive collaborations, he worked with Shaun Leane to create clothing pieces out of metal for one of his shows

Featured Image Source: Ed Kavishe / fashionwirepress.com, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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