Alexander Lee McQueen

Alexander Lee McQueen

If there’s one designer who defined fashion in the 90’s, arguments could be made for Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Perry Ellis, or Alexander McQueen. Most of those arguments would fall short, as in my opinion there is no other designer who captured the fragile time of fashion and culture in the 1990’s other than Lee Alexander McQueen.

A few different things have happened this past week to get me thinking about the late, great McQueen. One of them being the opening of the praised museum exhibit Savage Beauty in London, featuring McQueen’s designs, and the other being my captivation by a book called Champagne Supernova, by Maureen Callahan, which features tales of Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen.

It’s a fantastic read – I highly recommend it – and goes beyond the three greats of the 90’s and delves into what fashion was doing to culture at the time. But it’s reawakened quite a love I’ve always had for Alexander McQueen.

McQueen was always called a genius, by almost everyone he worked for. Even when he was fresh out of school, with no prospects, no proper look book, wardrobe, or any money, even when he was turned down from jobs, those employers still would nod in disarray, “he’s a genius.” He’s was fashion’s Kurt Cobain, struggling both above and under the surface at times, but his talent could never be entirely drowned out by his personal problems.

McQueen did not invent the dramatic runway show, Thierry Mugler and John Galliano had already introduced ‘shock fashion’ to the world in the 80’s. But he perfected it. McQueen’s very first collection, as a graduate student, was called “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims”, and McQueen ripped fabric apart and sent models down the runway with blood splattered across them. The entire collection was bought that night.

Moving outwards from his first thesis collection, his other runway shows included “Highland Rape” – which featured models covered in blood, dirt, and ripped tartan. He held a fashion show in the jail that housed Marie Antoinette, featuring models in dangerously tight corset and walking wolves on chains. This was the first show I had ever seen of McQueen’s, I was only in middle school then, and I was captivated immediately. “Wolves,” I flipped through Vogue.com, “Why hasn’t anyone ever done that before?”

Alexander McQueen introduced a very careless attitude to fashion, that wasn’t once not carefully scripted and in reality, very careful. He didn’t care what editors said or how angry fashion elitests got, as he knew that angrier they got, the more shows that they would come to.

It’s was a incredible 180 to the excess of the 80’s – shoulder pads, hairspray, Linda Evangelista – and when he died, it was the first time culture so heavily took the death of a designer.

Check out the best of Alexander McQueen’s runway shows below.

Alexander McQueen, S/S RTW 2001, “VOSS”. Featuring a young Kate Moss, and an infamous closing where the box reveals a nude model and a multitude of moths. 

Alexander McQueen, S/S RTW, 1999, “No. 13”. Perhaps his most talked about moment, where a robot arm spray-painted dresses mid-walk.

Alexander McQueen, S/S 2008, “La Dame Bleue”. A tribute to the late muse and good friend of McQueen, Isabella Blow.

Alexander McQueen, A/W 2002, “Supercalifarilistic”. Infamously held in the Conciergerie, the French prison that held Marie Antoinette, it’s the show where models walked wolves down the runway in chains.