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Alexander McQueen burst into the fashion consciousness as a working-class renegade with Savile Row training. From the start, he stunned all with the fierce, lyrical beauty of audaciously themed collections such as The Highland Rape. Brilliant as showman, storyteller and designer, McQueen made his entire career a fashion moment.
After a brief, volatile stint at LVMH’s Givenchy, he left for Gucci Group, which backed his house. There, he embarked on a remarkable creative run, with shows telling the moody, exquisitely costumed stories of a shipwreck, a dance marathon, a mesmerizing human chess game. For one show, he positioned Shalom Harlow on a turntable for spray-painting by a robotic arm; for another, he commissioned a ghostly hologram of Kate Moss, which disappeared to the strains of the theme from Schindler’s List. McQueen’s shows typically reflected his moods, and his career was marked by the counterpoint of aggression and romance, each rendered in the imaginative extreme.
The three seasons preceding his February 2010 suicide provided a lavish dissertation on Darwinian darkness and man’s abuse of nature. “I don’t see [my work] as aggressive,” McQueen said in 2002. “I see it as romantic, with a dark side of personality, you know? And maybe sometimes I go too far. But that’s just me.” And in 2009: “I wasn’t born to give you a twin set and pearls.”