October 15, 1996 the whole fashion world is shocked by the news – the world famous GIVENCHY appoints 27-year-old self-proclaimed London East End designer Alexander McQueen as Creative Director. Sitting in the front row next to the entire French elite, Lee McQueen could not help but look more out of place. Although, such a deal was apparently discussed with LVMH long before today. Yesterday his fellow countryman John Galliano announced a house change for his further creations, moving to the oldest and most respected French brand Dior, freeing Givenchy for Lee. This is how his short but legendary story begins.
This year the whole world is mourning. 10 years have passed since one of the most mysterious, creative and daring talents in the industry took his life.
The night before his last show, the Plato Atlantis collection, scheduled for October 6, 2009 in Paris, his show producer Sam Gainsbury tried on the lobster claw shoes, which will later be called “armadillos”. The heel was 20 cm high. “I could not walk, so I went to Alexander and told him about it.” “Do you understand that this could be a disaster? What if the models fall in these shoes? “ And he said, “If they fall, they fall.”
If they fell, or even worse twisted their ankles – perhaps it would be one of the biggest scandals of that season. But that did not happen. McQueen made this show a big break. Minutes before the show, he gathered models around him and said how much he admired their beauty and grace, how grateful and proud he is that they are capable of such a thing. He gave them self-confidence. None of them fell, 17-year-old girls walked the catwalk like queens.
Many saw the dark side in Alexander. On his show, critics and journalists tried to discern misonjenism, accusing him of promoting sexual violence after Highland Rape in 1995. His family would later comment: “He wasn’t just not a misogynist, he was the complete opposite of it. All his life he was surrounded by strong women, first in the family and then in fashion. “
In his shows, women were often portrayed in danger.
They walked in the dark; burned in flames ... But even in their tragedy and difficulties, these women never looked pitiful. Lee gave women strength regardless of their difficulties in life. “They didn’t just look weak, they looked like they might punch you right now if you cross
the line,” says Professor Claire Wilsock, chief fashion curator of the Savage Beauty exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
One of the main women in Lee McQueen’s life was his mother and fashion journalist Isabella Blow. In March 1992, McQueen presented his collection as part of a graduation show in Central Saint Martin. Blow was among the guests. She noticed McQueen’s talent immediately.
After the show, she bought his entire collection. He demanded then £300 for each piece, explaining how difficult and expensive the creative process is for a young designer. Isabella would later say that what attracted her to McQueen was that “he takes ideas from the past and sabotages them with his additions to make them completely new and in the context of
today. The complexity and severity of his approach to each cut makes him so modern. “ Isabella decided to make him her project and was not mistaken. She had a long history of manic depression, and when she died in 2007, McQueen and Phillip Tracy, an accessory designer whose lifelong muse Isabella, created a collection in her honor called La Dame Bleue. It was a mixture of feathers, leather, corsets, skirts and, of course, intricate hats. But the show is not mentioned, for good reason, that at the time of her death, all three were not on the best terms with hardships, which reportedly returned in 1996, when McQueen had great success and she realized that he had not been able to secure her a position at Givenchy. It all started after the fateful Highlander Rape show – McQueen’s dreams began to turn into a fairy tale. He
was named Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council and had the best time slots for a London Fashion Week show. LVMH appeared on the horizon. Success brought a lot of stress with it. Lee found comfort in drugs and alcohol, he lost most of his old friends.
At the age of 27, he was named creative director for Givenchy. His appointment left founder Hubert de Givenchy inconsolable. “I consider this a complete disaster, and I am suffering,” he said, “but what can I do?” Lee began living between Paris and London. LVMH rented him an apartment where he lived and hung out with his team. His office was small, but he looked
happy enough there. McQueen had 3 months before his Givenchy debut. Was he ready to become a commercial designer?
McQueen’s debut received mixed reviews. He “left the audience indifferent and bewildered by his first show for Givenchy,” Amy Spindler wrote in The New York Times. But Heath Brown in The Times praised: “The stake paid off,” – he wrote. “McQueen pushed the boundaries of
fashion to the limit.”
“Givenchy was the point where Lee began to change on many levels,” says Simon Costin, his then-set designer. “The stress of running ready-to-wear, fashion and owning a label was terrifying.” Costin, like others before him, began to suspect that McQueen had bipolar
disorder. “There were a lot of ups and downs with him, it was difficult to work with him,” Kostin says.
In 1997, the British Chamber of Fashion once again awarded Alexander the “Best Designer of the Year” award. “Its only usefulness,” Vivienne Westwood later said, “is a measure of zero talent.” Yves Saint Laurent will call him “talentless upstart.” At that time, Alexander was now constantly using cocaine, asking for it from everyone, even the press director of Givenchy. He also started smoking cigarettes, he smoked the same amount as Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs, 2 packs a day. McQueen, deep in self-pity, became obsessed with drugs and poor health. He wanted to leave Givenchy. Tom Ford, Creative Director of Gucci Group, drew attention to him. Getting himself McQueen would be the deal of the year – not only the most revolutionary designer of our time, but also the best revenge on Bernard Arnault for his attempt to take over the Gucci Group. McQueen received an offer: 51% of the shares and all you need to do is create collections for your brand. Lee went to the press and said, “Fire me!” Things in his work went on the mend, but his personal life was drowned in drama. His boyfriend, George Forsyth, will say one day: “The fashion world is the loneliest place on the planet. This is a small world full of party and party “friends”. Lee knew that. “
On February 10, 2 days after his mom’s funeral, McQueen made a search online. “When someone cuts their wrist, how long does it take to die?” He took enough cocaine to kill himself three or four times, swallowed sleeping pills, then picked up a negligee string and tried to hang
himself in the shower. It didn’t work out for him. He grabbed a cleaver and another knife, then went into his closet. He wrapped his favorite brown belt around his neck, cut his wrists and hanged himself, leaving a note that partially said:
“Please take care of my dogs. Sorry, I love you. Lee. PS Bury me in the church. ”
The 2011 exhibition “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the New York Museum of Art was a sensation. The queue stretched to Fifth Avenue in the last 2 days of the exhibition. It raised $15 million and became the eighth-most-popular exhibition in the history of the museum.
The generator of the craziest ideas in the history of fashion will forever remain in our hearts.