Monday, March 1, 2010

The Pain and the Ecstasy of Lee Alexander McQueen 1969-2010

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Lee Alexander McQueen was the "hooligan of fashion."

Outrageous and unconventional barely describe the life and work of Lee Alexander McQueen, an English fashion designer whose approach to couture was more theatrical than practical. Still, for sheer creativity and brilliance, he is unlikely to be surpassed. He died on April 11 of asphyxiation by hanging. It took place nine days after the death of his mother, and the day before her funeral. One can only speculate as to the state of his mind.

Hats, gothic and eccentric.

McQueen was quoted by Vogue in 2002 as having been born gay with nothing to hide. " I went straight from my mother's womb onto the gay parade," he quipped.

During his early career, before he received his degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, he worked on traditional Savile Row. McQueen developed a reputation for impeccable tailoring and drew clients like Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles. But he was already breaking the mold. McQueen once bragged that he had sewn the words "I am a cunt" into the lining of a jacket destined for Price Charles. It wasn't long before he was dubbed the hooligan of British fashion.

McQueen's designs were never dull.

That didn't stop Björk and later other celebrity patrons, including Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna, from wearing Alexander McQueen clothing to events. Lady Gaga has often incorporated Alexander McQueen pieces in her music videos.

In the video above, you can see some of the incredible feats of this designer. In it his 2007 showcase featured models sporting intense blue, green, and teal eyes with strong black liner extended Egyptian-style. McQueen handpicked the makeup based on the Elizabeth Taylor movie, Cleopatra.

McQueen was known for his lavish, unconventional, runway shows, such as a recreation of a shipwreck for his spring 2003 collection, spring 2005's human chess game and his fall 2006 show, "Widows of Culloden", which featured a life-sized hologram of supermodel Kate Moss dressed in yards of rippling fabric.

His "bumsters" established a new low in jeans that someone like Marky Mark could appreciate, and came close to revealing a new backside cleavage.

Alexander McQueen designed shoes that any drag queen could fall in love with.

From 1996 to 2001 he designed for Givenchy, toning down his usual Over the Top approach. Still in 1998 he had models in white cotton dresses being spray painted by robotic auto refinishers and double amputee model Aimee Mullins striding down the catwalk on intricately carved wooden legs.

He will most certainly be missed.

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