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Alexander McQueen

A British luxury fashion house renowned worldwide for exquisite handcrafted apparel and creative, provocative and theatrical showings.

Categories

Fashion and Textiles  
Retail and Consumer Goods  
Summary

Alexander McQueen is creative, provocative and theatrical. Synonymous with British contemporary couture, the handcrafted label has produced some of the most iconic, critically acclaimed collections in global Fashion — driven by the fashion designer’s vision that respects both craftsmanship and technology. In 2001 it was acquired by The Kering Group and since the designer's death in 2010, the house is helmed by Creative Director Sarah Burton. 


History

Born on 17 March 1969 in London to taxi driver Ronald and social science teacher Joyce, Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children. He attended Rokeby School and undertook a tailoring course at Newham College. Following an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard, he moved to Gieves and Hawke. During these years, he learnt classic tailoring and had the opportunity of making a suit for Prince Charles. From here he moved to costumiers Angels and Bermans, where he worked on the looks for "Les Miserables." 

With this base, McQueen went to Milan and worked as a pattern cutter for Romeo Gigli. At 21 he returned to London and undertook master’s in fashion design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design; his graduation collection "Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims" showcased the iconic thorn-print, silk frock coats with origami trail and bustle-backed tuxedos with sharp red-lined lapel—with locks of human hair sewn into the lining! It was bought for £5,000 by legendary fashion stylist and editor Isabella Blow. 

In 1992 McQueen launched his own eponymous fashion label and in less than ten years became one of the most powerhouse fashion designers of the era. His early runway collections earned him the title "l’enfant terrible" as he put on a series of superlative shows.. each one more dramatic than the next. Per W: McQueen has seemed at various times in his career to work through his demons, but he has never completely done so. Sometimes a dark current would wend through even his most glorious shows; other times, a season of pure romance might be followed abruptly by a brooding display of melancholia or outright anger. Translating his emotions into showings were the most fantastical moments in fashion history. 

In 1995 "Highland Rape" witnessed models in ripped lace walk down a runway strewn with dead flowers- to a soundtrack of whistling wind and church bells. His take on how Scotland was ravaged by the wars. In 1997 "The Doll" Kate Moss strode down a wet runway in low-slung bumster trousers. His Fall '98 show "Joan" referenced the Catholic martyr… McQueen printed portraits of Romanov children on the garments and ended the show with a model trapped in a circle of fire! Renowned for lavish unorthodox runway shows, he awed guests with his recreations of a shipwreck.. merry-go-round.. or wind-tunnel corridor bridging a snow-covered wasteland.. birdcages.. vertiginous heels — McQueen is credited with bringing a theatrical element to the catwalk.

In 1996 he succeeded John Galliano as Head Designer at Givenchy. Upon taking his post.. McQueen insulted the founder by calling him "irrelevant". His feisty attitude earned him the label "hooligan of English fashion." McQueen toned down his designs and silenced critics with impeccable tailoring but continued to fan his rebellious streak, causing controversy when double amputee model Aimee Mullins walked down the runway on intricately carved wooden legs! The same year witnessed McQueen's legendary showing where a single model- Shalom Harlow- graced the runway in a strapless white dress before she sat on a revolving catwalk and got sprayed with paint- by robotic guns. 

In one of his shows.. a dance based on Sydney Pollack's film "They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?" Anna Wintour gave him a standing ovation. Choreographed by Michael Clark over a fortnight of rehearsals in London, the showing theme involved dancers, runway models, and guests in a celebration of exquisitely glamorous clothes. One of McQueen's most dramatic shows was in 2001 titled “VOSS”. After everyone thought it was all over, another cube within the psychiatric ward-cum-runway opened up to reveal a portly nude woman, her face covered by a mask, breathing through a tube, surrounded by fluttering moths. McQueen used technology to add a twist to his showings — In 2006 he projected a state-of-the-art hologram of supermodel Kate Moss inside a glass pyramid on the runway.. the apparition, dressed in a billowing white dress, danced for few seconds and then shrank and disintegrated!! Other shows featured a volcanic catwalk that erupted in flames or a Plexiglass snowstorm! 

That said he also created the most beautiful, wearable looks: the razor-sharp suit- the pencil skirt- the summer prints. His notorious Bumster trousers- at first derided by the press, got a boost when the pop queen Madonna wore them; they would later be credited for the trend in low-rise jeans. McQueen stayed with Givenchy for a five- year term and then left to focus on his own fashion brand. In 2000 McQueen inked a deal with Gucci Group- now Kering- which took a controlling stake but allowed him to retain creative reign. Flagships opened in New York, London, Las Vegas, LA and Milan. Menswear was introduced in 2004 followed by a secondary line- McQ- in 2006. Pretty soon it was common to spot celebrities Nicole Kidman, Lady Gaga, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna in his label. 

Sadly- a few months later- following the death of his mother, the designer took his own life on 11 February 2010. Reportedly McQueen, who had been diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorder, took an overdose prior to hanging himself, and left a note that read, "Look after my dogs.. sorry.. I love you Lee." The fashion designer's body was discovered at his residence in near Hyde Park, London. He is survived by his father, three sisters and two brothers.

Following his death, McQueen’s colleague Sarah Burton took over as Creative Direction and looks after the development of all collections. In April 2011 she received global recognition as designer of the wedding dress for HRH Duchess Of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton. Burton was also awarded Order of the British Empire for her services to the British fashion industry and has won The Walpole Award for British Luxury Design Talent, Harper's Bazaar Woman of the Year Award, Designer of the Year Award at British Fashion Awards and CFDA International Award 2019.


Mission

Alexander McQueen aims to pioneer innovative, uncompromising, romantic and provocative designs that uphold the power of emotion and the touch of the human hand.


Vision

The McQueen vision is to innovate fashion with provocative, forward-thinking, referential and emotive designs with an artisanal quality. His success- per W- can be attributed to this vision. "He's gotten there on his brilliant talent, dogged determination and, he would add, business-side savvy through some very trying times."


Key Team

Sarah Burton (Creative Director)


Recognition and Awards
McQueen was awarded "British Designer of the Year" four times between 1996 and 2003. He was also appointed a CBE and named International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers in 2003 in addition to being named GQ Designer of the Year in 2004. In May 2016, at UNESCO Headquarters, Alexander McQueen won Prix Versailles for its rue Saint-Honoré boutique in Paris.

Products and Services

Women's and men's ready- to- wear including coats and outerwear- jackets- dresses- knitwear- leather and denim- tops- T-shirts- shirts- sweatshirts- skirts and pants. In addition to leather goods, fragrances, fashion accessories, shoes and eyewear.


References
Alexander McQueen
Leadership team

Gianfilippo Testa (CEO)

Sarah Burton (Creative Director)

Industries

Fashion and Textiles

Retail and Consumer Goods

Products/ Services
Menswear, womenswear, shoes, bags, scarves, jewellery and fragrance.
Number of Employees
1,000 - 20,000
Headquarters
76-78 Clerkenwell Road, Islington, London, EC1M 5QA
Established
1992
Company Registration
02975550
Revenue
500M - 1B
Traded as
Euronext: KER FP
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