“You dumb bitch”, I thought while talking to this white, privileged middle class born girl. I met her at one of the London Fashion Week afterparties. After going totally crazy and trying something she’s never done before (drinking beer, like, ugh, working class) she left her 6’5 tall boyfriend inside the pub alone with some Swiss models and went outside with me for a cigarette and a chat. “You know what, Thomas” she started, “I totally love TK Maxx. Once I found a blazer that looked totally like Balmain… I love Balmain…”. I had a quick look at her perfectly clean Gucci Ace Sneakers, brighter than my future, then at the Zara uniform trainers I was wearing. “Yeah, I know what you mean…” I answered and slowly exhaled the smoke in the direction of her face.
I really wanted to buy my first designer pair of shoes, but I simply couldn’t afford it. I’m also not good at saving money – sorry, but I’m a boy who goes to Asda after work to buy a £40 champagne just because the work was tiring… With a price tag of good few hundred British pounds I knew I had to come up with some idea. I decided to quit my job then, as I wanted to get extra money for all the earned and unused holidays, in order to be able to purchase… £400 trainers.
Well. That job was shit anyway.
Alexander McQueen is a brand founded by Lee McQueen, Stratford boy with Scottish roots, accepted into Central St. Martins thanks to his unbelievable skills in cutting clothes. Son of a taxi driver, boy who dropped out of school to work as a tailor in Mayfair, later got accepted into one of the most prestigious fashion schools in the world, became the artistic director of Givenchy and after leaving above mentioned house, created one of the most relevant modern fashion brands, owned by “The Gucci Group”, Kering.
One of the tutors at St. Martins, for the interview used in the documentary “McQueen and I”, admitted not treating McQueen seriously at the time. No wonder, guy was the same age as students of the school. He got offered a place and started his new journey (hate that word) as a MA student of fashion design shortly after.
His first fashion shows were brilliant in their own rebellious and chaotic way. Often organised in old Warehouses or once, even in the actual church, left everyone shocked or even disgusted. Models with their boobs hanging out, sanitary towels, blood – a bit of hardcore porn, a bit of high culture…
Alexander McQueen was never a brand created just to make money. Lee’s collections, with time becoming more and more spectacular and theatrical, were always an honest representation of designer’s feelings, personal demons or views on certain things. With brand getting more recognition (and financial freedom), as much as fashion shows becoming more expensive, McQueen’s label got associated with its own permanent aesthetic – dark British romanticism.
After the designer’s tragic death in February 2010, just a few days before his own mother’s funeral, Sarah Burton who had worked with McQueen over the years, became brand’s new creative director. Keeping the influences more or less where they were and should stay. Post-McQueen McQueen includes a lot of royal embroidery, sharp tailoring, death symbolism and melancholic references. All of that served with a decent dose of punk energy.
Plato’s Atlantis, which is the name of the last collection Lee McQueen designed, is often described as his absolute best. Armadillo shoes that Lady Gaga wore in her Bad Romance video, together with bell dress are two of many pieces that will stay with us forever.
McQueen once said that he’d like to be remembered as the one who started the 21st century in fashion. In my opinion though, with his disappearance, the artistic, wild and rebellious part of the game also faded away.