Obituary taken from

The fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who has been found dead at the age of 40 (on Thursday 11th February 2010), was seen as controversial and inspiring in equal measures.

The son of a taxi driver, McQueen worked his way up from his roots in London’s East End to the pinnacle of the British fashion industry.

The youngest of six children from a working-class family, he left school at 16 in 1985 with one O-Level, but his rise was rapid.

As an apprentice in Savile Row, he learned to make jackets at Gieves and Hawkes, where he reportedly scrawled “McQueen was here” inside the lining of suits, including one belonging to the Prince of Wales.

It was an early example of his showmanship and desire to cultivate notoriety in a business where it can pay dividends.

In 1990 he studied for an MA at Central Saint Martins College, and two years later had his entire graduation collection bought for £5,000 by the late fashion stylist Isabella Blow.

An influential figure at Tatler and Vogue, she plucked him from obscurity, taking delivery of his collection in black binliners.

Blow is also said to have persuaded him to change his name from Lee to his Alexander – his middle name – when he launched his career.

She remained a close friend up to her death in May 2007 from an overdose of weed killer after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

McQueen launched his own line in London in 1992, grabbing headlines with his low cut “bumster” trousers which presented a new take on the cleavage.

By 1996 he had succeeded John Galliano as the head designer at fashion label Givenchy, to the dismay of the French press.

His close-cropped hair, Doc Martens and feisty attitude earned him the label “the hooligan of English fashion”.

But he went on to silence many of his critics with his renowned tailoring skills and his clothes always remained popular.

In the same year, he was voted British Designer of the Year – the first of four occasions, and in 2003 was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

By the end of 2007, McQueen had boutiques in New York, London, Los Angeles, Milan, and Las Vegas.

Singers Rihanna and Lady GaGa are among the many celebrities who wear his clothes.

A scuba-diving fanatic, McQueen was openly gay, describing his coming out at a young age as going “straight from my mother’s womb on to the gay parade”.


~ by Carol O Hanlon on February 11, 2010.

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