Britain isn’t only known for it’s long history and ancient traditions. It is also renowned for beautiful people and exciting fashion. Some of the most stunning clothes ever to have been paraded down the catwalks of fashion shows around the world have originated in Britain.
One of the key protagonist of British fashion industry is the famous Alexander McQueen.
Born in London, the youngest of six children, life did not have an easy start for the fashion designer to be. He left school at the tender age of sixteen to embark on a journey that would lead him to become one of the most influential men in fashion in modern history. A journey that began with an apprenticeship on the illustrious Savile Row in Mayfair with the British tailors, Anderson and Shepard.
In his early career he went on to work with Gieves and Hawkes and then with costumiers Angels and Bermans. There he became equipped with new skills in tailoring, exploring 16th century techniques and patterns whilst also becoming familiar with the extravagant designs of the past which would go on to inspire his own clothing lines.
McQueen’s presence in the fashion industry was quickly noticed and in no time at all he had the biggest names in the industry calling him. Koji Tatsuno was one of these, another designer with British roots in technique. Following their collaboration McQueen found himself in Milan working with Romeo Giglis, a particularly big opportunity as McQueen held the position of the designers official assistant.
After his time in Milan, McQueen returned to the UK to take a place at the prosperous Art School, Central St Martins, where he completed his MA in fashion design. Here he honed his talent further and developing his own distinctive line of artistry. His end of course collection project was based on the infamous Jack the Ripper and was famously bought in its entirety by Isabella Blow, who would soon become a close friend to the aspiring star and an advocate for his later works.
Shortly after finishing his degree McQueen created an explosion in the industry of not only British fashion but fashion itself. He was handpicked to become chief designer for the Louis Vuitton 1996 Givenchy collection. He retained the post until March 2001 and was heard to have spoken of being disappointed by his own designs. A view that was not shared. He was awarded British Designer of the year in 1996, 1997 and 2001 for his inspiring designs.
The time had come for the designer to peruse his own vision, tired of being constrained by the limitations working in other fashion houses created, McQueen turned his focus to the commercial launch of his own company. McQueen was already an established fashion designer and his company was of immediate interest to global fashion houses. He was made an irresistible offer by the Gucci group who bought 51% of his company. This investment allowed him to remain creative director of company products but also gave him the ability to expand setting him well on the road to international acclaim. He opened shops in major cities around the globe from glamorous New York to Las Vegas, from Los Angeles, to the fashion central Milan and of course in his home town of London.
McQueen was recognised to be destined for success from an incredibly early age. Within four years of completing his degree had achieved more than most designers could hope for in a life time. He was
named British designer of the year again in 2003 for the work with his own company and in the same year international designer of the year by the council of Fashion Designers America and additionally a CBE from her Majesty the Queen of England.
In a short space of time McQueen evoked a new way for fashion. He revolutionised the fashion industry. He used models with amputations. He used his designs to say much more than “wear me”. McQueen clothing infused bespoke British tailoring, French Haute couture and sheer madness. He made juxtapositions with every piece bringing together durability with fragility, fire and ice, love and hate.
McQueen was never just a fashion designer; he was an artist with values and views on current affairs which he was insisted on expressing through the catwalk.
He sadly took his own life in 2010 shortly after his mother passed away. His legacy, however, lives on throughout Britain and the world. He will always be a highly regarded name in both Art and Fashion. Most of all he will be remembered as a young lad from London with a big dream. He made it come true. McQueen dressed Britain. R.I.P
(Photo credit: www.vam.ac.uk)