I’ve been out of action this week due to a dodgy tummy so I’m a little late with this post. On February 11th it would have been the third year anniversary of the death of one of fashion’s greats Alexander McQueen. On his first year anniversary I wrote a piece for the Irish Examiner. Unfortunately at the time features weren’t put on their web site so I don’t have a link but below is the text from the article.
Three years on under the talented hands of Sarah Burton the McQueen label is still very much a front runner in the fashion world. With The Duchess of Cambridge choosing McQueen for her wedding dress almost 2 years on the label has only become stronger. Here is my tribute to my favourite designer & the man responsible for my obsession with skulls….
On February 11th last year one of fashions most inspirational designers decided to take his final bow to go to the other side. Amidst the grief of losing his mother British designer Alexander McQueen took his own life. Even those who had little interest in the world of fashion were left shocked by the news that a man with so much more to give and who appeared to have it all would go to such an extreme. But that was what his art was all about; the extreme.
‘He was the most genuinely talented designer I have ever worked for, he was the real deal with a talent that came from nowhere and went everywhere. He was the exception. Talented people are extra and he was extra,’ said Irish Milliner Philip Treacy and good friend of McQueen on hearing the news of his death.
He went on the say how exceptional McQueen was in a world filled with designers of mediocrity, who are so ordinary with a capital O.
‘I come from the old school and he was the ultimate, he was exceptional. He was also a very kind and loving friend to me,’ said Treacy
Lee McQueen as he was known to his friends kicked off his catwalk career in the early nineties by taking a risk that would ensure his name hit the headlines. Delving into his Scottish roots he aptly named the show the ‘Highland Rape’. He sent his models down the runway in ripped lace dresses and skirts. The show was immersed in controversy with accusations of misogyny which McQueen quickly argued against explaining the show was a metaphor for the ‘rape’ of Scotland by the British, a part of history close to his family’s heart.
Most of fashions most memorable catwalk shows belong to McQueen. Only he could provide the astonishing feat of techno-magic that ended his Autumn/Winter 2006 show. Inside an empty glass pyramid, a mysterious puff of white smoke appeared from nowhere and spun in midair, slowly resolving itself into the moving, twisting shape of a woman enveloped in the billowing folds of a white dress. It was the elfin Kate Moss, looking beautiful and dream like. The vision danced before the rows of seats filled with the fashion industries most important before it faded away to thin air. The vision was in fact a state-of-the-art hologram. This was a small move away from the robots to another form of space-age technology.
It was McQueen’s ability to create an art form through fashion and visualizing this on that catwalk that has unlocked the world of design to those with a similar mindset. McQueen made fashion design something much greater and intrinsically artistic, something more than just simply making clothes. Irish designer Una Burke has paid the ultimate tribute to McQueen by designing a dress for his un- doubtable muse Lady Gaga. Burke believes that if it wasn’t for McQueen’s brilliance many designers like her wouldn’t be getting the recognition they deserve.
‘The work of Alexander McQueen has most certainly been inspirational for myself and so many designers who don’t fit into the conventional realms of the fashion industry,’ said Burke, ‘He effortlessly demolished the boundaries between fashion design and fine art, opening doors and minds through his use of controversial concepts and his innovative use of materials. He paved the way, using the human form as living art.’
Sustainable fashion has become a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. Again it’s breaking boundaries and without designers such as McQueen carving a path for something out of the ordinary, fashion would never enter the 21 Century.
Irish designer Lorna Burton of CoraLlei label, has taken the ethical route by producing only sustainable designs, an issue close to her heart. Her exquisite bags have been showcased at London’s fashion week and are already favourites with celebrities such as Laura Whitmore of MTV fame. Like so many young designers McQueen has been the ultimate inspiration, a force which has made her want to also create pieces of art through fashion.
‘Alexander McQueen 100% influenced and continues to influence my work. He looked beyond trend barriers and the confines of commercialism, creating works of art. His use of colour, texture, line and high quality tailoring would have you salivating at the mouth. His ambition and child-like wonder was infectious. He was a master of his craft and will continue to inspire generation after generation for decades to come. R.I.P Lee Alexander McQueen,’ said Burton.
It may be ironic that after his Spring/Summer 2010 show stylist and heiress Daphne Guinness described his collection as optimistic and futuristic.
‘He really is a master he really is,’ Guinness commented.
Or maybe Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld could see more to McQueen’s shows.
‘There was always some attraction to death, his designs were sometimes de-humanised,’ said Lagerfeld at the time of McQueen’s death.
Though many would argue that this willingness on McQueen’s behalf to explore areas most of us want to ignore was part of his genius. He wasn’t just a designer, he was an artist who is ultimately responsible for some of the most exceptional, far-fetched and interesting designs the British fashion industry has ever seen. His curiosity of the unknown has been in the public’s favour yet unfortunately been his demise.
A year on and the shows must still go on. Taking over the reins at PPR the design house of Alexander McQueen is his protégé Sarah Burton. Burton was the obvious choice as she had been the designer’s right hand woman for many years. She had also finished the collection McQueen had been working on at the time of his death and showcased it in Paris within a month of his death. Her Autumn/Winter 2011 Menswear Collection was met with great applause and approval. McQueen himself would have approved.