New York – Alexander McQueen, one of fashion’s great revolutionary designers, died Wednesday, Feb. 10, in his home in London. He was 40.
McQueen passed away in his recently renovated home, the former residence of PG Wodehouse’s, a Victorian house in Mayfair. He would have celebrated his 41st birthday on March 17, St Parick’s Day.
“On behalf of Lee McQueen’s family, Alexander McQueen today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand has been found dead at his home,” read a statement by his family, which used his familiar name, Lee McQueen.
McQueen was found at his townhouse and paramedics pronounced him dead, spokespeople for his house confirmed.
“At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee’s family,” the family statement continued.
“Lee’s family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news and we hope the media will respect this.”
McQueen sprung to fame in fashion with his seminal graduation show at London’s prestigious fashion school, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The famed stylist Isabella Blow acquired every look.
The son of a London taxi driver, McQueen began creating dresses for his three sisters as a pre-teen and declared his intention of becoming a designer, later learning the trade of a tailor while working for Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, and subsequently for Gieves & Hawkes.
Known as an enfant terrible, McQueen’s runways always shocked, beginning with his famed “Highland Rape” collection with trousers aptly named “bumsters,” a signature look for this designer. He returned to that theme a decade later with a fall 2006 show, “Widows of Culloden,” that featured a life-sized hologram of supermodel Kate Moss dressed in shards of ripped fabric.
McQueen was one of the youngest designers to win the British Designer of the Year award, picking it up four times between 1996 and 2003
His career had been meteoric, though not devoid of the odd low. He walked out of a job as couturier for the famed Paris house Givenchy in 2001, after a bitter dispute with the owners.
However, he rebounded within a year, signing a deal with the Gucci Group. The giant luxury conglomerate took a 51-percent stake his business, making him a key player in its strategy of building new fashion houses with dynamic designers.
His shows for the past decade have always been major highlights on the international fashion calendar, particularly the last women’s ready-to-wear show he would stage. His spring 2010 collection, unveiled in October 2009 in Paris, was a remarkable Atlantis inspired event, where the lobster pincher shoes and chess piece metamorphic outfits worn by the models were the over-ridding image of the whole European season.
The designer staged what would be his final men’s collection in Milan in January during the Italian men’s season. Inspired by rocker Sting’s performance on Jools Holland’s BBC music show, the collection featured a whaling captain, and many references to the Celtic origins of which McQueen was so proud.
“And I wanted to show that, because my costumers are complete men, not a stereotype of a fashion victim. Sting’s my ideal man, cause he’s a real man,” McQueen said over dinner last month in Milan.
McQueen was not an attention-seeking dresser. To dinner in Milan, he wore a simple gray round neck T-Shirt, under one of his own darker gray V-neck cashmere sweaters and a camel hair hidden button coat, along with Hermes jeans and belt and Martin Margiela rugged boots. Bearing an Alpine tan, McQueen seemed as interested in talking about skiing and nesting, as creation, and anxious to get back to his London home.
McQueen had spent his New Year break skiing in the Alps with his great friend and muse Annabelle Neilson.
Over dinner, he talked about how excited he was to be moving into his new home, anxious to get all the art he’d acquired installed there, walking his dogs in Hyde Park, determined to do lots of cooking, and keen to build up his wine cellar. But also, he was upset about the end of a recent relationship.
In person, McQueen was quiet spoken, courteous and though he laced his conversation with swear words, there was a sensitive nobility about him at all times.