Page last updated at 19:37 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Obituary: Fashion king Alexander McQueen

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'A controversial figure whose early creations earned him the title, hooligan of English fashion'

The fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who has been found dead at the age of 40, was seen as controversial and inspiring in equal measures.

The son of a taxi driver, McQueen worked his way up from his roots in London's East End to the pinnacle of the British fashion industry.

The youngest of six children from a working-class family, he left school at 16 in 1985 with one O-Level, but his rise was rapid.

He started his career in Savile Row as an apprentice with Anderson & Sheppard before moving on to Gieves & Hawkes.

He reportedly once scrawled "McQueen was here" inside the lining of a suit belonging to Prince Charles during his stint on the famous street for bespoke tailors.

'Bumsters'

It was an early example of his showmanship and desire to cultivate notoriety in a business where it can pay dividends.

In 1990 he studied for an MA at Central Saint Martins College, and two years later had his entire graduation collection bought for £5,000 by the late fashion stylist Isabella Blow.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow
Isabella Blow, who discovered McQueen, committed suicide in 2007

An influential figure at Tatler and Vogue, she plucked him from obscurity, taking delivery of his collection in black binliners.

Blow is also said to have persuaded him to change his name from Lee to Alexander - his middle name - when he launched his career.

She remained a close friend up to her death in May 2007 from an overdose of weed killer after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

McQueen launched his own line in London in 1992, grabbing headlines with his low cut "bumster" trousers which presented a new take on the cleavage.

'Fashion hooligan'

By 1996 he had succeeded John Galliano as the head designer at fashion label Givenchy, to the dismay of the French press.

His close-cropped hair, Doc Martens and feisty attitude earned him the label "the hooligan of English fashion".

Alexander McQueen in January 2010
McQueen once told the BBC it was "a nightmare thinking up new ideas"

But he went on to silence many of his critics with his renowned tailoring skills and his clothes always remained popular.

In the same year he was voted British Designer of the Year - the first of four occasions between 1996 and 2003. That achievement was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List when he was made a CBE.

McQueen stayed with Givenchy for five years, until the end of his contract, which he said had started to "constrain" his creativity.

He began a new partnership with Gucci Group, which bought 51% of his company, and boutiques followed in London, Milan and New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

He also launched a perfume range and collaborated with Puma on a special line of trainers. Singers Rihanna and Lady GaGa are among the many celebrities who wear his clothes.

A scuba-diving fanatic, McQueen was openly gay, describing his coming out at a young age as going "straight from my mother's womb on to the gay parade".

He entered into a civil partnership with documentary maker George Forsyth in a New Age ceremony on a yacht off Ibiza in 2001. Kate Moss was their bridesmaid.



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