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August 12, 2022
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DESIGNERS

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen was the sixth and youngest of his parents’ six children and was born Lee McQueen in the East End of London in 1969. His parents were a cab driver and a social history teacher. At the age of sixteen, he dropped out of school and began an apprenticeship at Anderson and Sheppard, a bespoke tailoring business on Savile Row. After that, McQueen went to work for the tailors Gieves and Hawkes, the theatrical costumers Bermans and Nathans, the designer Koji Tatsuno in London, and (at the age of twenty), he went to work for Romeo Gigli in Milan. Upon his return to London in 1990, he applied for a position teaching pattern-cutting at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. However, despite the fact that he did not have any prior formal training in fashion, he was offered a place in the fashion design course as a graduate student. In 1992, he was given the title of master of arts after completing his studies. After dropping out of college, McQueen applied for and received social security benefits for the jobless. He was afraid of facing criminal charges if he was found working for money. After that, he started working as a fashion designer under the name Alexander McQueen, although he kept claiming benefits as Lee McQueen. His graduating collection was purchased in its whole by the well-known fashion stylist Isabella Blow, who was working as a fashion editor for Vogue at the time. Isabella Blow went on to promote and support his work over the course of many years.
“He takes concepts from the past and sabotages them with his cut in order to make them completely fresh and relevant to the setting of today.”
& He is like a Peeping Tom in the manner that he slices and stabs at cloth in order to explore all of the erogenous zones of the body. “
Isabella Blow was cited in the article “God Save McQueen” by Sarajane Hoare. Harper’s Bazaar 30 (June 1996): 148.
As soon as he became known as Alexander McQueen, he launched his own label and had his first exhibition in autumn-winter 1993.
His early collections, such as Nihilism (spring-summer 1994) and Highland Rape (autumn-winter 1995), concentrated on shock tactics rather than wearability; this method helped him develop a strong identity. Nihilism was shown in spring-summer 1994, while Highland Rape was shown in autumn-winter 1995. These collections’ designs, with their severe aesthetics, addressed various facets of the themes of abuse and trauma in their many iterations. They often included material that had been cut, stabbed, or ripped, in addition to McQueen’s signature style of tailoring, which was brutally sharp. He revolutionized the fashion industry by incorporating groundbreaking narrative and visual substance into his runway displays. Models walked on water, were doused in “golden showers” on an ink-flooded catwalk, or were encircled by rings of flame throughout the performance. Styling, showmanship, and theatrical presentation were just as crucial as the creation of the outfits. The presentations were produced with little resources, with assistance from models, makeup artists, stylists, and producers who were willing to donate their time and labor for free. Katy England, who serves as his creative director, was essential not only in the formation of his aesthetic but also in the conception and execution of the designs for his exhibitions. At this point, McQueen started working with other designers, such as jewelers Shaun Leane and Naomi Filmer, and fashion designer Dai Rees, whose accessories and jewelry he utilized in his exhibitions. McQueen also began collaborating with other fashion designers. In addition to these efforts, he collaborated with forward-thinking creators of cinema, video, and pop music.
McQueen lived up to his bad-boy reputation by exposing himself to allegations of misogyny in his Highland Rape collection, which featured models that appeared to have been bruised and battered and were staggering along an apocalyptic, heather-strewn runway, and by baring his backside to the buyers at the New York version of his Dante show (autumn-winter 1996). His business acumen, on the other hand, was just as keen as his tailoring, and his pranks and tales always had a purpose, whether it was to draw the attention of the press, potential customers, or financial supporters. For instance, Bergdorf Goodman placed an order as a direct result of the Dante exhibition in New York. McQueen realized from the very beginning the business potential of shock tactics in the British fashion industry, which despite its reputation for innovation had essentially no infrastructure. After securing his first financial backer, he dialed down the outlandish nature of the material of the programs, but he did not completely eliminate it. 1996 was a pivotal year for McQueen in a number of other respects as well. Late in that year, he switched his supporter to the Japanese multinational corporation Onward Kashiyama, which is one of the largest garment manufacturing firms in the world. This company also provided support to the fashion designers Helmut Lang and Paul Smith. The McQueen brand was manufactured by the company’s subsidiary Gibo.
In October, he was given the position of designer in chief at the Givenchy headquarters in Paris, taking over for John Galliano, who had moved on to Christian Dior. In addition, Alexander McQueen was honored with the title of British Designer of the Year in 1996, an honor he again received in 1997 and 2001.
McQueen and Galliano were thus at the forefront of an attack on Paris-based fashion that was led by young British designers in the 1990s. Their iconoclastic imagery and show practices contributed significantly to the revival of a French industry that had been in decline. The support of the conglomerate LVMH (Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton), which enabled McQueen to maintain his uncompromising design approach for his own label, came with the appointment to Givenchy, which McQueen received after he had been offered the position at Givenchy. During his time at Givenchy, he softened the more edgy aspects of his design aesthetic. However, during his time at both Givenchy and McQueen, he continued to explore ideas that he had been working with ever before he graduated. In contrast to the more straightforwardly romantic work of Galliano or Vivienne Westwood, the style that McQueen used was described as ‘darkly romantic,’ and it included a severe perspective of history and politics. His antecedents in the hall of fame for fashion design were not the only sources of motivation for him; cult films by Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini, or Alfred Hitchcock; anatomical plates from the seventeenth century; and photographs by JoelPeter Witkin were also common sources of creativity for him. His early designs featured the low-slung and cleavage-revealing “bumster” pants; he retained a love with highly structured corsets and tailoring, as well as a fondness for historical cut and details in his garments. On the other hand, by the late 1990s, the traumatized appearance of his early models had been replaced with an Amazonian interpretation of feminine attractiveness as a type of fear. McQueen had an older sister who was a victim of domestic violence when he was growing up, and he has stated that as a designer, he aimed to create a vision of a woman who was so powerful that no one would dare to lay a hand on her. McQueen is known for his line of women’s clothing, which has garnered international acclaim.
In addition to his work in the commercial sector, Alexander McQueen continued to work on publishing projects in tandem with photographers such as Nick Knight and Norbert Schoerner. He also continued to collaborate with individuals from fields unrelated to fashion, such as the artist Sam Taylor-Wood and the musician Bjork. His spectacular and one-of-a-kind showpieces that were never put into production were in high demand from art galleries and shows all over the globe, in contrast to his crisp tailoring, which was offered for sale in stores.
McQueen parted ways with Givenchy at the beginning of 2001 and continued to exhibit under his own name in Paris rather than London after selling a majority stake in his company to Gucci in the month of December 2000. The backing of Gucci, owner of Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, and Balenciaga, helped facilitate the transition of his business from a small-scale London label to a global luxury brand. His role as creative director of the company allowed him to retain creative freedom as a designer, while the backing of Gucci helped him transition his business from a small-scale London label to a global luxury brand. In March of 2001, he collaborated with the Savile Row tailors Huntsman to establish his own brand of bespoke menswear. In 2002, Alexander McQueen launched his first flagship shop in New York, then in 2003, he built two additional locations, one each in London and Milan. In 2003, he was also given the title of International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In the same year, he also received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) from the British government for his contributions to the fashion industry. He released his perfume, Kingdom, in the same year. Recently, McQueen explored a variety of innovative approaches to Internet broadcasting of runway events. His very dramatic Webcast event, which included a hologram of Kate Moss, as well as the live broadcast of his runway displays, garnered an incredible amount of attention. On February 11, 2010, Alexander McQueen, at the age of forty and reportedly in despair over the recent death of his mother, took his own life, sending waves of shock and sorrow through the international world of fashion. McQueen’s passing has sent waves of shock and sorrow throughout the international world of fashion.

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