A Champagne Supernova, as Maureen Callahan calls him in her book, Alexander McQueen, was a pioneer of the 90s fashion. Along with Marc Jacobs, he was one of the most influential designers of the industry, remembered for his raw and powerful shows and his theatrical designs. Today, we will see the inspiration behind the art of Alexander McQueen.
Lee Alexander McQueen was born in 1969 in the East End of London. At the age of 16, he left school and worked for Savile Row and later for Gieves & Hawkes, where he learned tailoring. Gradually, he built his reputation as a fashion designer. In 1992, Alexander received his master’s degree in fashion design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He attended the program after being encouraged by several people in the industry who saw his talent.
The collection he launched in 1992 was so amazing that Isabella Blow, an eccentric stylist of Vogue, purchased the whole line. She was also the one who convinced him to use the name Alexander as he was beginning his fashion career. Isabella and Alexander were very close friends, and Alexander always sought her advice and opinion. She had a significant impact on him. She was the only one who believed in him in the early stages of his career when everyone else called him “enfant terrible,” a reference to his chubbiness, and “a hooligan of English fashion” (Daily Telegraph).
Louis Vuitton and Gucci
In 1996, Givenchy, who owned the house of Louis Vuitton, approached Alexander McQueen. His technique fascinated them; he didn’t scratch design any clothes, but instead, he created them on the spot. He would take a pair of scissors and fabric, and he worked directly on the model. Louis Vuitton saw his process of adding garments and embroidery and chopping things off as true couture.
However, Alexander felt restricted at Louis Vuitton; he did not have the freedom to create what he wanted. So, in December of 2000, he left and started working for Gucci. They invested in Alexander, and the money allowed the artist to unfold his creativity.
The Alexander McQueen Brand & Inspiration Behind It
In 1992, Alexander had already founded his brand. He drew inspiration from everywhere: art, film, music. He paid tribute to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and to Hitchcock’s The Birds and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Alexander opted for controversy and used shock-provoking tactics. He always meant to go political on his shows and broach various social and political issues. Each show had a different story to tell and had a unique title; the only common theme was the extravagance and drama.
Alexander’s main goal was to reconnect the romantic past with the postmodern present. It proved, however, to be a difficult job. The postmodern present did not recognize beauty or craftmanship as relevant to art and culture. Besides, the conservative audience could not understand Alexander’s innovation.
Deeply inspired by romanticism, Lee was all about the lone artist. In 1992, he presented a show entitled Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims, where he introduced his thorn-like overcoat and the three-point origami frockcoat.
The Victorian Era was a massive inspiration for Alexander. Specifically, he was into the gothic and the macabre. Plus, the Brothers Grimm fairytales fascinated him.
The “shadowy fancies” that Edgar Alla Poe wrote in The Fall of the House of Usher also had a considerable impact on McQueen–details can be found in all of his collections. They are vividly present in his shows of F/W 1996-7 Dante, F/W 2002-3 Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and F/W 2010-1 Angels and Demons. As the Victorian gothic combined elements of horror and romance, Alexander enjoyed making similar combinations of love and death, light and dark.