McQueen Is Dead: Long Live McQueen

 

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Yesterday, I was completely gutted to hear of Lee Alexander McQueen’s untimely death.  He was only 40 years old.  Only 40 years old, and yet he left behind a powerful legacy of creating, re-defining and expanding our concepts of beauty and art.  His creations proved, time and time again, that fashion is art, and that fashion is worthwhile.  Many people credit McQueen as the designer who inspired that breakthrough, and who initially inspired their interest in fashion.   His creations were never merely snippets of fabric or presented for empty shock value; they were masterpieces, works of art, ideas, thoughts, visions, reactions, stories, and concepts.  He was a true visionary who often explored the worlds of the ethereal and the macabre, and with a penchant for historical, royal, gothic and futuristic themes. 

McQueen expertly navigated tradition and innovation.  He was known for his meticulous tailoring (a skill that currently seems to be on the decline), and his clothes were a celebration of the male and female form.  He often wore kilts of his family’s tartan, and wool, tartan, lace and houndstooth were popular fabrics in his collections.  While working on Savile Row in the early ’90s, he allegedly embroidered curse words in the linings of Prince Charles’ suits (“I am a c*nt,” to be exact) and his cheeky (er, literally) collection featuring “bumster” trousers in the mid-90s earned his notoriety and the reputation as an “enfant terrible” of fashion.  A completely self-made man, McQueen hailed from London’s East End, and was the son of a cab driver.  He developed a lasting relationship with his mentor, the iconic Isabella Blow (who plucked him out of obscurity), and remained very close with his mother.  Despite his rising success, Alexander McQueen’s sense of humour, kindness and loyalty remained firmly grounded.  When the supermodel Kate Moss was engulfed in a drug scandal, and many other designers (including those Moss helped represent) were tripping over each other in efforts to disassociate themselves, McQueen publicly stood by his friend.   He was also a champion of models (and all women) with unconventional looks, and often employed Erin O’Connor and Karen Elson- models who carved their careers out of being outsiders, “freaks.”  (O’Connor is the model on the left-hand side of the second photo.) 

Although the fashion industry is often mired in scandal and frivolity, McQueen’s masterpieces are exemplary reminders of the power and potential of fashion.  They encourage us to find beauty in the most unlikely of subjects, including ourselves.  This visionary artist inspired us to imagine the world for what it could be.  The world is a slightly less brilliant and beautiful place without him. 

God Bless McQueen.

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(All images from hautemacabre.com)  


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