Remembering Alexander McQueen’s Most Iconic Moments
Alexander McQueen SS99, photographed by Chris Moore.
During the course of his 18 year career, Alexander McQueen asserted himself as a true creative visionary. Nine years after the designer took his life, his eponymous label led by Sarah Burton continues McQueen’s legacy, whilst his vast archive continues to inspire new generations designers and creatives around the world. Following what would have been the inimitable designer’s 50th birthday we remember some of the revolutionary designer’s most iconic moments.
Lee Alexander McQueen was born on the 17th of March 1969 in Lewisham, south east London. McQueen cut his teeth and developed his tailoring prowess as an apprentice at Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, followed by Gieves & Hawkes and the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans, as well as a short period at Romeo Gigli, before enrolling in the Central Saint Martins MA under the tutelage of the formidable Louise Wilson. Titled Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims, McQueen’s 1992 graduate collection was bought in its entirety by Isabella Blow, who became his patron, mentor and close friend. His early collections shown in London were more conceptual than commercial and often controversial. It was following the departure of John Galliano to Dior that McQueen took over as the creative director of Givenchy in 1996, where he designed the house’s ready-to-wear and couture collections until 2005. During his career, he collaborated with a host of pioneering creatives including photographer Nick Knight, stylist Katy England, choreographer Michael Clark as well as designing the tour costumes for David Bowie and art directing the cover of Björk’s Homogenic.
Between 1996 and 2003 the British Fashion Council honoured McQueen as British Designer of the Year four times and his contribution to fashion was acknowledged as he was awarded a CBE in 2003. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the designer’s 2011 retrospective broke records for numbers of attendance, at first the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and then at the V&A in London, with over a million people visiting the two shows combined. From McQueen’s graduate collection to his final collection, via his work at Givenchy and his innumerable legendary collection and collaborations, here are ten show-stopping moments to cherish.
Alexander McQueen graduated from the Central Saint Martins MA in 1996 with his collection Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims, inspired the notorious 19th Century serial killer.
In his early collections, locks of hair were sewn into the garments with the labels, evoking how in the Victorian era prostitutes would sell tresses of their hair to be encased in jewellery and given as gifts by lovers.
McQueen’s controversial fourth show Highland Rape for AW95, which launched him into the public eye was inspired by the 18th century war between the Scottish and the English. Not much of the collection remains as the majority of the pieces were seized against his debts.
After seeing an image created by McQueen in Rei Kawakubo’s guest-edited issue of Visionaire, Björk commissioned the designer to art direct the cover of her 1997 album Homogenic.
As the creative director for Givenchy, McQueen’s first show for the house was SS97 Haute Couture titled Search for the Golden Fleece.
McQueen’s AW98 collection Joan was inspired by the 15th century heroine Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake, the show came to a close with a model wearing a formfitting red dress with a mask concealing her face entered the catwalk where a ring of fire erupted around her.
For the ethereally theatrical finale of his AW99 show Shalom Harlow wore a white dress stood on a wood turntable as two robotic arms sprayed-painted neon yellow and black paint onto her dress. Photographed here by Chris Moore
The catwalk of McQueen’s SS01 show Voss was set inside an large glass box, which resembled a psychiatric ward holding cell in which the models performatively processed. The show finished when a mirrored glass box in the middle of the catwalk collapsed and shattered to reveal the naked body of writer Michelle Olley, wearing a mask with breathing apparatus, covered in living butterflies whilst lying on a chais longue.
After the tragic death of Isabella Blow, McQueen paid tribute to his friend and mentor with his emotional SS08 show La Dame Bleue.
In a time before you could livestream everything wherever, whenever McQueen decided to broadcast his SS10 collection Plato’s Atlantis on SHOWstudio. Just as the show was about to start, however, Lady Gaga tweeted a link to her fans and the demand caused the site to crash. This would be the final show that McQueen worked on. Photographed here by Chris Moore.