Alexander McQueen is synonymous with breaking convention. In the early years, the designer gained a reputation for the controversial performances that were his runway shows, even earning him the nickname “l’enfant terrible”.
His legacy lives on today through the work of his successor, Sarah Burton, who keeps his ideas alive in her designs for the brand. Read on to find out more as we look in-depth at the designer’s history…
Where it all began…
Alexander McQueen was born in 1969 to a Scottish taxi driver and a teacher. He was the youngest of six children and, although he was born and raised in London, he was fascinated and incredibly proud of his Scottish ancestry which can be seen in some of his work. After leaving school he completed tailoring apprenticeships and work placements on Savile Row, a London street notorious for its array of impeccable tailors, before going on to work for a theatrical costumier. He began to build a reputation for himself as an expert tailor whilst simultaneously attending art college, before completing an MA in Fashion at the prestigious London art school, Central Saint Martins.
The early years
Upon completing his MA in 1992, he received acclaim for his graduate collection, with the entire line being bought by a high profile stylist. This initial success gave him a spring-board enabling him to build contacts and relationships, which resulted in some prominent collaborations, one of the most notable being his work with David Bowie. McQueen designed the wardrobe for Bowie’s tours between 1996 and 1997, as well as the iconic Union Jack coat featured on the cover of Bowie’s album Earthling.
Our AW20 childrenswear collection
‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.’ - Alexander McQueen
His background in theatrical costume, impeccable tailoring, and artistic eye paved the way for his highly unusual and theatrical runway shows which were, for the most part, met with critical acclaim. He became known as “the hooligan of English fashion” owing to his unconventional, controversial, and performative shows. His unique vision earned him the role of Chief Designer for Givenchy, a role he held between 1996 and 2003. McQueen was one of the youngest designers to win the British Designer of the Year award, which he won four times during these years.
The early 2000’s
Sarah Burton joined Alexander McQueen in 1997 as McQueen's personal assistant, before taking on the role of Head of Womenswear in 2000. During her time in this position, she designed dresses for some extremely high profile women, notably Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Lady Gaga. In 2000, the Gucci Group acquired 51% of the company, though McQueen continued his role as Creative Director, and many more stores were opened internationally. The growth continued in Spring/Summer 2005 when the label launched their first menswear collection which, since it’s inception, has continued to show each year in Milan.
2010 and beyond
After McQueen’s untimely death in 2010, it was announced that Burton would take over as Creative Director. She has since built on the legacy of Alexander McQueen himself and continues to design with his ideas at the forefront. One of her most well-known designs as Creative Director of Alexander McQueen was the wedding dress of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, in 2011, as well as the bridesmaid dress for her sister, Pippa Middleton.
2015 saw the opening of the Savage Beauty exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a show devoted to celebrating the iconic designs of Alexander McQueen. It showcased some of his flawless tailoring and expert construction, as well as a retrospective look at his ever-changing evolution as a designer.
Introduction to childrenswear
Many will know Alexander McQueen for their well-loved collection of sneakers, instantly recognised by their exaggerated platform sole. As an introduction to childrenswear, these have been downsized to fit tiny feet: they are the same premium quality as their grown-up counterparts, made from soft leather and complete with a contrasting heel tab with the Alexander McQueen signature.
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