Alexander McQueen History Case Study – The Man & The Brand

Alexander McQueen History Case Study – The Man & The Brand

Alexander McQueen is one of the most celebrated fashion designers in the world. He is famous for his original designs that feature a mix of creativity and technical ability. Most socialites, nobility, and celebrities were known to turn to Alexander McQueen when they needed to attend fashionable events or needed timeless pieces in their wardrobe. Alexander’s outfits also appeared in many mainstream fashion magazines throughout his career. This article will explore Alexander McQueen history to gain better insight into the man and the brand. 

Alexander McQueen History

Alexander McQueen, known as Lee to his friends, was born and educated in London. McQueen dropped out at age 16 to become an apprentice at a historic British menswear tailoring center. He started at Anderson & Sheppard and then moved to Gieves & Hawkes. At this center, McQueen learned the traditional tailoring techniques he needed. Further down the line, McQueen worked as a pattern cutter at Angels & Bermans, theatrical costumiers. 

When McQueen turned 20, he started working as a pattern cutter for Koji Tatsuno, a London-based Japanese designer. Later, he moved to Milan to join Romeo Gigli, an Italian designer admired for his understated, romantic designs. McQueen later returned to London to complete the prestigious MA in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins. With his experience, McQueen was already a proficient tailor. However, he learned how to be a fashion designer and drew inspiration from London’s history. His inspiration came from world-class museums and the slowly emerging Britart Scene. McQueen first gained extensive press coverage through his graduate collection. Isabella Blow, an influential fashion stylist, purchased the entire collection. 

In Alexander McQueen history, it wasn’t till 1992 that he launched his label. He succeeded John Guiliano as Givenchy’s head designer in 1996. Down the line, the Gucci Group acquired a majority stake in McQueen Company. However, he remained the creative director of the company.

Alexander McQueen History – His Influences

Most people admired McQueen’s work for his blend of tradition and subversion. This was apparent in his ‘Bumster’ trousers, corroded fabrics, flesh-revealing lace, slashed leather, and sharp frock coat. He was always known to proclaim he learned the rules to break them. However, while McQueen broke the rules, he continued to keep the tradition. His Savile Row training is what shaped his career. His background in precision tailoring, combined with the improvised dressmaking and draping skills he learned in the atelier, paved the way for his creative experimentation with construction and cutting. 

A top defining feature of Alexander McQueen’s collection is its far-reaching historicism. His Scottish heritage inspired his 1995 Highland Rape collection. The collection referenced the highland clearance of the 18th and 19th centuries when tenants were usually forcefully evicted from the Scottish Highlands. One of his top inspirations was the 19th century. He was famous for drawing inspiration from the Victorian Gothic. Throughout McQueen’s history, one can find radical representations of historical narratives. It was clear that McQueen loved to challenge history. 

While still a student, he frequently visited the V&A to read the archives and draw inspiration from its diverse collection. The textiles and woodcarvings of the museum always inspired and intrigued him. He also drew inspiration from global influences like India, Africa, Turkey, and China. These places sparked his inspiration but not as much as Japan did. The Japanese kimono was one garment that McQueen loved to reconfigure in most of his collections. McQueen also loved to explore polarities like nature versus technology or man versus machine in his work. Many of his collections took their forms and raw materials from the natural world. 

Alexander McQueen History – On the Catwalk

McQueen was famous for the dramatic intensity of most of his fashion shows. His shows drew inspiration from performance art and theater. One of his spectacular catwalk presentations is VOSS (Spring/Summer 2001). This show was centered around a glass box that resembled a cell in a psychiatric hospital. Another is Scanners (Autumn/Winter 2003), where his models navigated wind tunnels suspended above the runway. A popular McQueen fashion show is the Widows of Culloden (Autumn/Winter 2006), where Kate Moss appeared as an ethereal apparition inside a glass pyramid. This fashion show echoed the stage trick ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ popular in the 19th century. Additionally, in 2009, his fashion show ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ (Spring/Summer 2010) became the first to be streamed live on the internet. 

Throughout his lifetime, McQueen appeared in two V&A Fashion in Motion Events. These were live catwalk presentations staged against the museum’s fascinating backdrop. His first appearance was in June 1999, where he showcased some fashion pieces from his Spring/Summer 1999 Collection. However, the second was in October 2001 when he celebrated his collaboration with the Jewelry designer Shaun Lee. By this time, McQueen already had a reputation. Therefore, over 3,000 people gathered at the museum’s grand entrance to see the event.

Alexander McQueen History – His Collaborations

Alexander McQueen closely worked with a loyal, tightly-knit team. He was famous for quickly recognizing talent in others. McQueen commissions several one-off creations not meant for production for most catwalk shows. He also worked with various materials and talented people to achieve his vision. These included feather workers, leather workers, woodcarvers, and embroiderers. Like his longstanding relationship with Shaun Leane, McQueen was famous for working closely with Philip Treacy, a milliner. 

Alexander McQueen’s Projects and Accolades

McQueen opened several stores in Milan, New York, London, and Las Vegas between 2000 and 2010. One of his collaborative projects was working on a unique line of trainers with PUMA. This collaboration led to the launch of McQ, a younger, lower-priced collection, in 2006. He also collaborated to release the Kingdom fragrances in 2003 and MyQueen in 2005. Another McQueen collaboration was with MAC in 2007 to release a cosmetics collection. This collection drew inspiration from the actress Elizabeth Taylor’s role in a film as Cleopatra.

Some of the accolades he received throughout his career included the British Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council. McQueen won this award four times between 1996 and 2001. He also received a CBE award in 2003 for his service to the fashion industry. McQueen was also awarded the International Designer of the Year award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Celebrities who frequently wore his designs include Bjork, Sara Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, and Lady Gaga. 

McQueen passed away in February 2010 on his London flight. He was working on an Autumn/Winter 2010 collection which Sarah Buton, his Head of Womenswear since 2000, completed. Alexander McQueen’s career was celebrated in the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition. This exhibition became the most visited exhibition during its 21-week run in 2015.

Alexander McQueen Most Iconic Pieces

Before he died, McQueen was one of the most passionate and talented fashion designers to walk this earth. Many celebrities and fashion designers continue to wear and celebrate his iconic pieces. Below are some of the most iconic pieces from Alexander McQueen.

Kate Middleton’s Wedding Gown

This is the most famous outfit you’ll find on this list and probably the most renowned wedding gown in the world. Kate Middleton’s wedding gown is still celebrated as one of the most beautiful bridal gowns ever created. Kate Middleton was always a fan of McQueen right from the beginning and was photographed wearing several of his creations. However, what tops the list is her exquisite wedding gown which she wore to marry Prince Williams in 2011. After his death, the gown was designed by Sarah Burton, McQueen’s creative director.

Butterfly Headdress

McQueen worked with many fashion designers throughout his career to achieve his ambitions. He was famous for frequently collaborating with Philip Treacy. Their collaborations often resulted in several dark headpieces that are now iconic pieces. A fine example of their headpieces is the butterfly headdress. Treacy embodied the spirit of McQueen as a brand and a fashion designer. He recognized the fearlessness in McQueen and how his shows added modernity to most of their creation.

Pantheon As Lecum

In 2004, McQueen hosted one of his most theatrical presentations with Patheon as Lecum. He wanted to focus more on the designs featured on the show rather than its dramatic aspects. Still, the concept of the show was quite pleasing to the audience. The show’s finale features Kate Bush’s Baboushka, which accompanied several models dressed similarly. This final creation seemed to belong in the future rather than in the hands of a fashion designer in London. McQueen’s audience felt like they were in a time machine at the show.

Lady Gaga

Before McQueen passed away, Lady Gaga acted as a muse for him. The pop star and fashion designer enjoyed a close friendship. The two were so close that Gaga premiered ‘Bad Romance’ at his Spring 2010 show. Later that year, she showed up at the MTV awards dressed entirely in McQueen outfits. The awards took place not long after his death, and the Regal McQueen design was a tribute to her friend. 

Pretty in Pink

In 2018, Sarah Burton made it apparent why she was ideal as the new creative director at McQueen by producing a new spectacular collection. Burton experimented with the current mood of female empowerment by representing women in the pleasures, battles, and triumphs. She also used the natural world theme McQueen was famous for. 

Oscar Wilde Collection

Throughout Alexander McQueen history, he found as much joy designing men’s outfits as with women. This feature was apparent in his work. One of his top influences for the men’s line was the famous writer Oscar Wilde. Wilde was often referred to or featured in McQueen’s collections. After his death, the brand stayed true to McQueen’s Wilde obsession and created several Wilde-inspired outfits for the McQueen’s menswear collection in 2017. The collection featured several long jackets and guardsman’s capes and coats with gold buttons to pay homage to Oscar Wilde.

Stripes in Winter

Alexander McQueen had an eye for fashion and drama. His creation wowed the audience from the beginning because of its daring feature. One of the reasons is his use of dark colors and even darker themes. He wanted people to gain insight into his thoughts on couture, especially what he hated about the industry. He achieved this through his collection titled ‘The Horn of Plenty.’ This collection referred to greed and excess, and it was a huge success. It challenged the fashion industry’s perception of beauty and immensely pleased critics. 

Final Thoughts

Alexander McQueen is a revolutionary fashion designer that made his mark in the fashion industry. His designs also drew inspiration from nature, heritage, and the museum collection. He was also famous for challenging fashion norms with his collections while still upholding tradition. We hope this article provides you with insight into Alexander McQueen history and sheds light on the man and the brand.

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Alexander McQueen History Case Study – The Man & The Brand Alexander McQueen is a fashion designer who made his mark in fashion history. Keep reading for insight into Alexander McQueen history.
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