Perplexing, disturbing, unearthly, revolting. Alexander McQueen’s designs are nothing if not controversial. McQueen’s tragic suicide in February 2010 left the world in shock, but he left behind a fascinating body of work from a career that spanned more than two decades. This British designer’s collections continue to be questioned, picked apart, and analyzed in desperate attempts to better understand and fully appreciate his untamed imagination.
Alexander McQueen biography
Born in Lewisham 1969, Alexander McQueen left school with just one academic qualification – art. He went on to attend London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design where his outstanding technical skill immediately began to emerge. So too, did evidence of a darkly-inclined imagination, apparent in his 1992 graduate collection entitled Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.
He worked for several years at Givenchy, all the while amassing funds and making plans for his own eponymous label, the launching of which unleashed his creativity.
It could easily be said of McQueen’s subsequent collections that ‘anything goes’ – taxidermied birds of prey clawing at draping vest-tops, dresses constructed entirely from razor-clam shells, gazelle horns protruding from jacket shoulders – but categorizing it in such a way would massively undermine his work. Behind each collection was a profound and thoroughly thought-through concept.
From his ‘Eshu’ designs inspired by the Yoruba people of West Africa to the 1997 ‘It’s A Jungle Out There’ to his notorious 1995 ‘Highland Rape’ collection, which saw a chaotic army of blood-streaked models stumble down the runway in shredded tartan dresses (symbolic of what the designer saw as an English violation of Scottish culture), McQueen’s designs always reflected – sometimes in admiration and sometimes in dismay – the complex world he observed around him.
It is this acute observation that distinguishes McQueen as a designer. Neither superficial nor purely commercial, his clothing was first and foremost an art form – expressive, often didactic – and a business second. He is therefore one of only a handful of designers who can claim to have truly revolutionized the industry. Alexander McQueen’s legacy is, quite simply, extraordinary.