Alexander McQueen: Master of Jaw Dropping Dresses and Iconic Men’s Suits

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Fashion Royalty turned out for the funeral of Alexander McQueen yesterday. Making his mark with the ‘bumster’ style low rise jeans and a hyper-sexualised take on fashion. His humble beginnings as an apprentice working on classic men’s suits in Savile Row earned him the tailoring expertise which would later become the staple of his unique creations.

A male designer can’t give a woman what a female designer can – they know where all the bits and bobs are. But you just try your best; it’s about making the most of a person

Fashion royalty turned out to bid a final farewell to the late Alexander McQueen, world class designer and flamboyant master behind groundbreaking fashion for men and women. From dazzling red carpet dresses to edgily innovative mens suits, McQueen’s designs were known for their raw and androgynous sex appeal, as well as the skill and precision of their tailoring.

Supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell - close friends of the tragic fashionista - joined fellow designer Stella McCartney and members of McQueen’s family in a congregation of 100 people in leafy Knightsbridge.

Yet the man behind designs that cultivated looks for a throng of stars including Madonna, Bjork and Sarah Jessica Parker was found dead in his Mayfair flat just two weeks previous, having allegedly commit suicide the day before of his mother’s funeral. The youngest of six and referring fondly to himself as the ‘pink sheep’ of his family, McQueen’s final hour in the highbrow district Mayfair was a far cry from his seemingly humble beginnings as the son of a taxi driver in the east end of London.

The late Alexander McQueen began his career as a young apprentice in Savile Row - the world renowned golden mile of mens suits. He later became the youngest designer to receive ‘British Designer of the Year’ award.

Having left school at the tender age of 16 and seen an advertisement seeking apprentices, it was on the infamous London street that McQueen mastered the traditional tailoring skills for which his work would later be acclaimed. It was also here that he wrote “I am a c*nt” in the lining of a jacket being made for the Prince of Wales.

After stints with Japanese designer Koji Tatsuno and Italian designer Romeo Gigli, and armed with an M.A from Central St Martin, McQueen made his mark with the ‘bumster’ style, establishing the low rise jean on males the world over, from London to New York and California to Shanghai.

Suffice to say, the iconic image of youth captured later in nineties cult hit film Clueless, following a group of young men sporting “baggy pants” and “backward cap” casually strolling into school is as timeless a fashion statement as Alexander McQueen himself.

As removed from the traditional lines and classic styling of Savile Row mens suits as ‘bumsters’ were, they were McQueen’s first foray into the fashion world, sparking headlines and public debate, defining him as an artist who used pungent sexuality in his creations. Starting his own line upon graduating and receiving immediate press attention with his profanely original, romantic and sexualised fusions, McQueen realised he was something of a press story.

Working class wonder. Rough, street edged and foul mouthed. Feminine sensibilities. A peacock of a hybrid. Openly, comfortably gay.

Tantalising journalists with foul street language and sporadic bouts of attitude, McQueen’s edgy creations afforded him the prestige of having the fashion world come to him. He didn’t need to chase magazine publication.

Yet it was his expert and increasingly rare ability to carve a piece of cloth to the very folds of human skin that marked his stamp in the fashion world. No designer cut a cloth like McQueen. The foundations of his experience in tailoring mens suits and mens formal shirts in Savile Row brought the classic structure to his designs that would establish him amongst the glitterati of the fashion world.

His replacement of fellow Brit John Galliano at Givenchy in 1996 did much to heighten press intrigue – particularly considering his ‘commoner’ status amongst the elite fashionistas of Paris. As did his refusal to immerse himself in Parisian culture and learn French, while executing jaw dropping collections time and time again. Despite his success, McQueen and Givenchy did not a happy union make. He was famously poached by the equally powerful Gucci Group in 2001, where he continued to garner his unique tailoring ability in creation after creation of innovative fashion.

Yet when interviewed, McQueen was somewhat modest about his skills, telling I.D magazine in October 1993, “A male designer can’t give a woman what a female designer can – they know where all the bits and bobs are. But you just try your best; it’s about making the most of a person”.

‘Making the most’ is an understatement for Alexander McQueen’s contribution to fashion. From his daring show themes such as ‘Highland Rape’ and ‘The Golden shower’ – later amended to ‘Untitled’ after a request from his sponsors, American Express – to skull embedded mens suits, spray painting of models as they entered the catwalk and mooning his audience amongst an array of stunningly tailored garments, Alexander McQueen has made a fashion statement to long outlast his short lived legacy on earth.

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Kirti Sudumbrekar
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