“I’m a romantic schizophrenic.”
– Lee Alexander McQueen
In 2010, the fashion world lost a one-of-a-kind genius who created designs that endlessly captivated and never failed to cause controversy.
Lee Alexander McQueen, known only as Alexander McQueen, came from humble beginnings and was a high school dropout determined to make something of himself with his talent for design.
McQueen started working for made-to-measure tailor companies and later moved on to work with costume designers, Angels and Bermans. Many people say that the dramatic style of the clothing he made there helped shape the outrageousness of his later work.
He eventually created his own namesake company as well as became the head designer for Givenchy. Over the years, McQueen caught the eye of the entire world and won many prestigious awards, including International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England and British Designer of the Year.
Image courtesy of Marie Claire
Unfortunately, with great fame came greater inner criticism as Alexander McQueen lived with an immensely painful cloud of depression that never left his side.
These inner demons surfaced in his designs. As they became angrier and more fierce, those who followed him worshiped him, but those who didn’t understand grew even more confused.
Alexander McQueen | Spring/Summer 2005 | London Fashion Week
His Unconventional Vision
An Alexander McQueen show meant a theatrical work of art in which he often exposed his soul in the craziest ways possible.
→ 1997: His models walked on water
→ 1998: A model was surrounded by a ring of fire in the middle of the runway
→ 2006: A holographic Kate Moss haunted the runway
→ 2009: His show famously ended with 2 robotic arms spraying paint onto a model’s simple white dress as she rotated on a turntable
Simply put: Alexander McQueen was way ahead of his time.
Alexander McQueen | Spring/Summer 05 | It’s Only A Game
So naturally, as a fashion student, I followed his work closely.
I remember hearing about his suicide and immediately thinking what a sad and tremendous loss it was for the fashion world.
Alexander McQueen contributed to a side of the fashion industry that few designers dare to work in. His designs were part art, part fantasy, part beauty and part wild, untamed ferocity.
Savage Beauty: The Exhibit
Aptly named Savage Beauty, the exhibition was a breathtaking tribute to the late designer’s masterpieces. It broke all records and expectations, with almost 700,000 people in attendance with additional days/times added by popular demand.
Savage Beauty became one of the MET’s top 10 visited exhibitions in the museum’s history.
I decided to go on the exhibit’s last day, assuming that the mania would have died down by then and the lines would be shorter.
God, was that dumb.
My mom loves going to fashion exhibits with me, so she came along – 2 weeks post-op from ankle surgery.
That was even dumber.
To say she was a trooper is an understatement. We ended up standing on line outside of the MET for 3 hours on what seemed like the hottest August day ever.
We were so happy when we finally made our way inside, not realizing there was another 2 hour line to get into the actual exhibit.
It was one of the longest days of my life, but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. Even my mom said so!
The savage beauty of Alexander McQueen’s legacy is something that has to be witnessed in person to be truly understood.
“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for – to demolish the rules, but to keep the tradition.”
“People find my things sometimes aggressive, but I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic – dealing with a dark side of personality.”
Images From the Book:
Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty
Alexander McQueen | Savage Beauty
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
May 4 – August 7, 2014