Icon: Alexander McQueen

By now you guys already know I find my inspiration in many places.  You also might know that I love fashion and that I have a long list of Icons that I turn to for encouragement. One of these is the amazing Alexander McQueen, who was taken from us much too soon.

According to Bio.com, fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen was born on March 17, 1969 to a working-class family living in public housing in London's Lewisham district. His father, Ronald, was a cab driver, and his mother, Joyce, taught social science. On their small incomes, they supported McQueen and his five siblings. McQueen, called "Lee" by his friends for most of his life, recognized his homosexuality at an early age and was teased extensively about it by schoolmates.
McQueen for Givenchy, 1997
At age 16, McQueen dropped out of school. He found work on Savile Row, where he worked first with the tailor shop Anderson and Shephard, and then moved to nearby Gieves and Hawkes.  Once he decided to further his clothes-making career, he moved on from Savile Row and began working with theatrical costume designers Angels and Bermans. This marked an amazing creative period for him, and the dramatic style of the clothing he made there would become a signature of his later independent design work. 
Theatrical designs by McQueen
McQueen then left London for a short stint in Milan, where he worked as a design assistant to Italian fashion designer Romeo Gigli. Upon his return to London, he enrolled at Central Saint Martin's College of Art & Design, and received his M.A. in fashion design in 1992. The collection he produced as the culminating project of his degree was inspired by Jack the Ripper and was bought in its entirety by Isabella Blow the well-known London stylist and eccentric who became a long-time friend, as well as an advocate for his work.
Alexander McQueen and best friend and muse Isabella Blow
Soon after obtaining his degree, Alexander McQueen started his own business designing clothes for women. He was greatly successful, and after only four years of being out of design school, McQueen was named Chief Designer of Givenchy. Although it was a prestigious job, McQueen took it reluctantly, and his tenure there (from 1996 to 2001) was a tumultuous time in the designer's life. Even as he was pushing the limits of fashion, McQueen felt he was being held back.  Even through his disappointment with Givenchy, McQueen won British Designer of the year in 1996, 1997, and 2001, all during his time there.
Alexander with Prince Charles in 2001,
after winning British Designer of the Year
In 2000, Gucci bought a 51 percent stake in Alexander McQueen's private company, and provided the capital for him to expand his business. He then left Givenchy shortly thereafter. In 2003, McQueen was declared International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and A Most Excellent Commander of the British Empire by the Queen of England. He also won yet another British Designer of the Year honor. Meanwhile, McQueen opened stores in New York, Milan, London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. With the help of Gucci's investment, McQueen had become even more successful than he was before. Already known for the flare and passion of his shows, McQueen produced even more interesting spectacles after leaving Givenchy. For example, a hologram of model Kate Moss floated ethereally at the showing of his 2006 Fall/Winter line.
Kate Moss hologram at McQueen show circa 2006

In 2007 his dear friend and supporter Isabella Blow commited suicide. The designer dedicated his 2008 Spring/Summer line to her. Just two years later, on February 2, 2010, McQueen's mother died. One day before her funeral, on February 11, 2010, McQueen was found dead in his Mayfair, London apartment. The cause of death was determined to be suicide.

Alexander McQueen's rise from lower-class high school dropout to internationally famous designer is a remarkable story. His bold styles and fascinating shows inspired and wowed the world of fashion, and his legacy lives on. Longtime co-designer Sarah Burton took over the still-operating Alexander McQueen brand, and McQueen's contribution to fashion was honored by a 2011 exhibition of his creations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. According to those who knew him closely, McQueen was proud of breaking the traditional mold of a successful designer.
Love Always
Dani K 

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