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Hamish Bowles Was ‘Terrified’ When He First Met Alexander McQueen

"I was terrified," is how Vogue's Hamish Bowles described his first meeting with Alexander McQueen on the red carpet at this week's Met Gala, honoring the late designer's work. The terrifying part? "There were very few teeth, I remember, and quite a significant beer belly," he explained. "[The teeth] bespoke street fights." Bowles said the late Isabella Blow convinced him to go see McQueen's work for the first time when he was still a student at Central St. Martin's in London. "So I went to south, south, south London, it took hours to get there, and it was his auntie’s welfare apartment. And he had some mannequins in the front room, and this really terrifying creature greeted me, and he was inarticulate and abrasive and just absolutely brilliant," an emotional Bowles explained. "You could just see there was just a raw talent. And you could tell he was frustrated because he felt that he wasn’t ready to be showing me things."

Model Natalia Vodianova, who walked in a few of McQueen's runway shows, described him as "very shy." "The clothes were so incredible, but certain pieces were torturous in a way because [they had] such a small waist," she recalled. "I saw so many girls almost fainting backstage, but we all loved it because it was a real show, and the atmosphere was so exciting always." Vodianova interacted with McQueen more when she asked him to create a dress for a charity event she was organizing. "It’s not like you really got to know Lee unless you really knew him personally, which I didn’t, but he was a very kind man, very supportive of my charity. That was very special to me. That’s the sweet feeling. He’s not someone necessarily who would tell you, 'Oh my god, Darling, I love you, you look amazing,' you know, not really outgoing, but he would support you, he would be behind you. That meant a lot."

Sarah Jessica Parker, who famously attended the Met Ball with McQueen himself one year, also described him as shy. "He’s not comfortable always in environments like these, but I find that charming, and I empathize with that. But there were enough people here that he knew, that he felt comfortable with, and we got through the evening quite well," she said.

While Parker and Bowles were lucky to have worn McQueen to the ball, there may have been fewer of his pieces on the red carpet than anticipated. This was probably partly due to the museum exhibit, where many archive looks were on display. Serena Williams, who wore Oscar de la Renta, had floated the idea of wearing McQueen but "couldn’t quite fit the sample sizes," she said. Also, alterations of archive looks is not allowed. Parker, who wore an archive piece, explained, "I wasn’t allowed to touch it so I was very fortunate that it fit me."

Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

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