The fashion industry was left reeling after British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was discovered dead yesterday having taken his own life, just days after the death of his beloved mother, Joyce, and just years since his close friend, style guru Isabella Blow who helped him become a star – killed herself.
Forty-year old McQueen, who was christened Lee but used his middle name as a designer, was found at his luxury flat in Mayfair, central London. It is believed he hanged himself.
One of his lines, McQ, was due to be shown at New York Fashion Week yesterday afternoon but the show has now been cancelled.
Staff were overcome with emotion at the designer’s company headquarters in Farringdon.
McQueen, CBE and four time winner of the British Designer of the Year award, was very close to his mother, a genealogist, and had taken her death last week very badly
Born in the East End and the son of a taxi driver, McQueen started as an apprentice at in Savile Row at the age of 16, where he made suits for Prince Charles. He was famously first discovered as a designer in the 90s by Isabella Blow, the style guru and fashion director of Tatler, who killed herself in May 2007 by taking weed killer after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She bought all the clothes he made for his graduate show for £5,000. They were delivered to her in black binliners.
With his ultra-short hair and Doc Marten boots and his penchant for shock tactics in his early catwalk shows, he was initially the ‘enfant terrible’ of the fashion world. He was also a favorite among edgier, fashion-forward celebs— like Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna. There was a stir when he was made head designer at Givenchy in 1996, succeeding John Galliano. He later joined forces with Gucci, who bought 51 per cent of his company.
His hugely successful career brought him numerous awards, including British designer of the year four times between 1996 and 2003 and the International Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designer Awards. He received a CBE in 2003.
Openly gay, McQueen once described himself as the ‘pink sheep of the family’.
He will be sorely missed by his peers and fashion followers alike; here are some quotes from the industry:
‘At one level, he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashion shows that mixed design, technology and performance and on another he was a modern-day genius’ Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman
‘What a terrible, tragic waste.’ Katherine Hamnett
‘He was a genius and his talent was second to none.’ Matthew Williamson
‘He leaves the fashion world with an unfillable void.’ Dolce & Gabbana
‘McQueen was a master of fashion, creative genius and an inspiration.’ Victoria Beckham
‘Alexander McQueen made an outstanding contribution to British fashion. His extraordinary talent and creativity mean that his designs are adored not just by followers of haute couture but lovers of great style everywhere. This is a great loss to one of Britain’s most successful industries and to the design world more widely.’ Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw