When Alexander (Lee) McQueen showed what we now know to be his final collection in Paris last October, he seemed to be a designer with an eye to what’s next. The show was streamed live to the Internet, the clothes were experimental and modern. The takeaway was that McQueen, in addition to reaffirming his genius, had established himself as someone who was taking the rapidly changing medium in stride, that he was able to find inspiration in the tumult of technology.
His creative excitement about the possibilities of the future — just months ago he was fantasizing to the New York Times about holograms that would allow anyone anywhere to see his collections in three lovely dimensions — makes his death this morning of an apparent suicide all the more shocking.
There are not many designers in any generation with the ability to do what McQueen did, which is marry epic imagination with mind-blowing technical skill. He’d apprenticed on Savile Row (where he’d once etched something pretty nasty in the lining of Prince Charles’s suit), and he’d studied at Central St. Martins. There was never any doubt that McQueen knew exactly what he was doing. He was famous for razor-sharp tailoring, a gothic sensibility, and an ability to push all sorts of fashion buttons. He popularized “bumster” pants and named a collection “Highland Rape.”
While his professional life was an endless flow of critical and financial success, friends worried that his personal life was sometimes dark. And lately there had been an awful lot of death: He lost his friend and mentor Isabella Blow to suicide three years ago, and last week he lost his mother.
After Blow’s death, McQueen was, by all accounts, devastated. He told her husband that he’d been to his psychic, and the psychic had comforted him with the news that Issie was doing just fine in the afterlife. She was spending time, he said, with her fantastic cannibal grandmother.
McQueen’s friends, family, and many, many admirers all over the world are in mourning today over the loss of this great talent, and also at the knowledge that he was able to create so much beauty in the midst of so much sadness.
See all the recent Alexander McQueen runway collections and view all of McQueen's runway videos, from spring 2008 to fall 2010 menswear.