Alexander McQueen

Aimee Scott

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA216

Lee Alexander McQueen was born in Lewisham, London, in 1969. After leaving school at sixteen with just a single O-level qualification in art, McQueen became an apprentice at the Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard. He then went on to work for Gieves & Hawkes before moving on to Angels, the theatrical costumiers.

In his early twenties, McQueen moved to Milan, Italy to work as an assistant for Romeo Gigli, returning to London in 1991 to tutor as a pattern cutter at the college of Central Saint Martins. However, the director of the school was so staggered by his impressive portfolio that he was asked to enroll as a student. He received a master’s degree in fashion design, with his graduate collection gaining positive reviews. The entire collection was purchased by fashion stylist Isabella Blow.

Keen to cause controversy with his work, McQueen’s runway shows became highly anticipated. With his launch of “Bumsters” in 1996, these low-rise trousers became one of McQueen’s most infamous shock creations. He was also the first designer to incorporate Indian models and amputees into his shows.

In 1996 he was appointed as head designer at Givenchy after John Galliano’s departure. However, he left after five years in 2001 as he felt Givenchy were “constraining his creativity.” He went on to be named British Designer of the Year four times between 1996 and 2003. In 2004 he won the Men’s Designer of the Year award. He was then also awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and named International Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designer awards.

In December 2000, Gucci acquired 51 percent of McQueen’s company, with McQueen serving as creative director. By 2007 McQueen had boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan, and Las Vegas. In February 2010, Alexander McQueen was found dead at his home in London. He had ended his life only days after his mother had died. After his death, Gucci confirmed his brand would continue and appointed McQueen’s long-term assistant, Sarah Burton, as the new creative director.

Alexander McQueen, Fall/Winter 1999. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Watt Judith. Alexander McQueen—The Life and The Legacy . New York : Harper Collins, 2012.