It’s the 11th of February. A massive loss for Britain and the fashion industry. It’s the date of Alexander McQueen’s death.
The Dandy Diaries wants to bring homage to the great British designer, who landed his first collection in the underground of the fashion world in London in 1995. He started off as a tailor on Savile Row and through his ingeniousness, he climbed the most pretentious mountain of all: the industry of fashion. Soon, he became a couturier at Givenchy, where not many people believed in him. He started off rough: he had subtle illusions towards the macabre, although by 1997 S/S he was an instant hit, and Givenchy’s haute couture business flourished.
McQueen’s talent was due to his troubled mentality and love of grotesque. His collection of 1996 “Highland Rape”, which he created under his own name and brand "Alexander McQueen" shocked a nation, with this particular collection, he became famous and a protoge of Isabella Blow, British fashion editor at Vogue. It was Blow who suggested Lee McQueen to use his second name, Alexander, for his brand, because she wanted people to take him seriously.
The materials he used for his collection,"Highland Rape" were tartan and chifon, the dresses he made were cut and shredded on the breasts of the models, reenacting the aftermath of a rape, also the colors of the materials were tattered, as if the models were covered in mud.
Highland Rape acted as a mirror to McQueen’s mentality. He could turn an act that is so repulsive and controversial, a taboo, into haute couture. The stage was his playground.
After Highland Rape, his next controversial show was in 1999, when he made something spectacular. He made Shalom Harlow, a British model, wear a a pure white dress. When she walked out on the podium, wearing the virgin-white dress for the show’s finale, she walked pass two robotic arms, which were coordinated by Alexander himself. She stepped on a rotating plate and started spinning. The robotic arms held yellow and york-green paint in their arms and sprayed all over the dress, while the model was spinning. It was a revelation, as if the dress became real, made in front of all those people and the press.
Alexander revolutionized fashion and haute couture by this act. He elevated fashion almost to the concept of art.
In 2001, he shocked the nation again with his S/S collection entitled "VOSS". The concept behind his creation was women’s madness and hysteria. The scene of the show had a genius conception. The runway was in an over-sized box-like room which wasn’t lighted for the first hour of the show. In the first hour, McQueen played with the reflection of the mirrors: while the press was waiting for the show to start, inside the box the lights were off, which turned the glass-plates of the “box” into mirrors. The concept behind this was that McQueen wanted to exhaust his audience, he wanted to bring them down psychologically to the state of exhaustion, hysteria - just so the audience would share the whole atmosphere of the show. After an hour the lights outside were off and the lights inside the box were on, so Kate Moss opened the show by walking down slowly in the box to the audience. The other strange thing was that the models could only see their own reflections. It was like they were alone, walking in front of mirrors.
The conception of McQueen was that he wanted to capture hysteria and the feeling of being psychologically bound and repressed. The feeling of depression, nausea and claustrophobia is something that he beautifully managed to recreate. In my personal reading, McQueen criticizes fashion as the main cause of angst. The nerve-wrecking feeling of always looking in the mirror, seeing your reflection constantly, and by seeing your reflection constantly, as a woman you tend to see your own, life-sized flaws. Being trapped inside a body that is not perfect, of which you are not proud can cause claustrophobic anxiety. That is why Alexander wanted to make “his women” proud, fearless, but also vulnerable to the crowd.
The video of VOSS S/S 2001: http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=kMi1-4SE_qo&u=/watch?v=PC3J5Jtato0&feature=share
To me, Alexander McQueen represents a state, not just an industry. He takes his women up to a dream-like state, revolving around the grotesque. He’s favorite symbols are birds, the sea, the sky, the phenomena around us that represents mysticism and enigma.
He was coined as “the bad boy of fashion”, although in my opinion he is something entirely different. He was coined Isabella Blow as a true “architect”: 'See that (pointing on a picture of a bird). That is the McQueen silhouette, the curvaceous bird-like androgyny. That is what Lee gave the world of fashion”.
To me, he represents the romantic side of fashion, and romanticism is filled with passion. Romanticism has also an illegitimate, dark, obscure side, which is sadness. I believe that he was not simply a designer, or a “head” in the fashion industry. He was the Poet of Fashion. He was and architect of dreams. His creations were so theatrical, that even his death, if we look at it, was filled with heavy theatricality: he was found dead in his apartment on the 11th of February, 2010. He hung himself in his closet, leaving a note behind that said: “I’m sorry. Feed the dogs for me. Love, Lee”.
It was the biggest loss of the fashion industry, but in my opinion, it was a much bigger loss for Britain. If we put aside the British queen of fashion, Vivienne Westwood, Lee McQueen was the one who made a progress for Britain. He brought romanticism, technology and poetry to the world of fashion. He became a British Icon who will always be remembered.
So, let us remember him for his words. This is my favorite quotation from him:
"I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress".
Evelyn Doroghy x The Dandy Diaries