By  on January 19, 2006

MILAN — The debut of McQ, Alexander McQueen's diffusion collection, was never intended to be a traditional champagne-flowing fashion event.

Instead, McQueen re-created Britain's youth club culture, which filled a good part of his teenage past, to present McQ on Tuesday night during the men's shows.

"The idea is a gang of kids hanging around and dancing, dressed in an eclectic Larry Clark [director of the movie ‘Kids'] style," said McQueen, in an exclusive preview at the SINV SpA, the line's manufacturer, showroom here. "The clothes have a very distinct attitude with a nod to English film noir from the Sixties and ‘Georgie Girl.'"

The stage was set up in a sprawling former post office, adjacent to the central station, decorated with vintage leather sofas, a pool table and pinball and Space Invaders video machines. Outside, stands served hot dog and cotton candy, creating a cross between an Andy Warhol Factory and an amusement park. The up-and-coming band Ludes played live.

For the show, besides 25 male and female models, McQueen did a street casting, selecting a crop of kids from around London for their style, ranging from Sixties nostalgia to Rockabilly spunk. Some of their black- and-white portraits will be turned into billboards for New York Fashion Week or fly posters to be pasted around Milan, Paris and London during their respective fashion weeks.

As for the clothes, McQueen described them as "very me."

"While I wear clothes from my signature collection at night or to special events, I would wear McQ every day," said the designer, pointing to his navy wool knit Montgomery coat.

The collection is expected to generate sales of between $60 million to $121 million in three years. The initial retail plan of 600 sales points was revised downward to 400, according to Jonathan Akeroyd, chief executive officer for Alexander McQueen. "Though this collection will sit next to Miu Miu and Marc by Marc Jacobs, it has a very unique point of view," he added.

The collection includes fabrics such as wool checks, floral printed cottons, leathers, hand knits and over-dye techniques.McQueen staples such as belted capes, formfitting dresses with crisscross lacing down the front and back and loose shapes over snug bottoms trickled down to the 190-piece collection, which is priced 40 percent below the signature line.

Highlights included a tromp l'oeil group, where blouses made with check and floral combos seem tucked inside a denim miniskirt or slim pants but are in fact one piece, just like the knitted T-shirts with appliquéd long shirt sleeves.

Chunky and loose wool sweaters feature hand-knitted overlay motifs and are tossed over skinny jeans, while metal hardware such as pins, chains and buttons are treated for matte vintage effects and sewn onto denim vests and biker jackets.

Retail prices range from $181 for jeans to $302 for dresses and jackets, but can reach up to $480 for elaborate knitwear.

"In the beginning it was a denim-driven collection but that changed because once I start designing, I just can't stop," chuckled McQueen.

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