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LONDON — Add one more chapter to the McQueen fairy tale.
This story first appeared in the June 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Less than a month after picking up his CFDA award for Best International Designer, Alexander McQueen has been honored with a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the fashion industry.
And the designer accepted the award in typical outspoken fashion. In a statement released Monday, McQueen said: “It is a great privilege to receive this honor. I now formally urge the British Government to match this recognition by investing in manufacturing and new talent — the foundation of British fashion,” he said.
The lack of a solid, cost-effective manufacturing base in the U.K. has been a long-standing problem for young British designers.
McQueen is the latest in a string of British designers to receive an honor from the Queen — but is the youngest designer to do so. Others holding CBEs, MBEs or knighthoods include John Galliano, Sir Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Bruce Oldfield, Caroline Charles, Jasper Conran and Zandra Rhodes.
The CBE, or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, is one of hundreds of honors the Queen gives out to mark her June birthday. Created in 1917, the CBE is available to all who give service to the U.K., regardless of the job they do.
The honor is all the more weighty for 34-year-old McQueen, who once described himself as a “big-mouth East London yob,” and whose freewheeling use of expletives and feisty nature garnered him his share of bad press when he was younger. Back at the start of his career, as the legend goes, McQueen told the press that while working at a Savile Row tailor — identified as either Andersen & Shepard or Gieves & Hawkes — he had written expletives in the lining of a jacket destined for the Prince of Wales. It was something he later denied.
Domenico De Sole, chairman and chief executive of Gucci Group, which owns a 51 percent stake in McQueen’s business, called the designer “extraordinarily talented, as well as being a wonderful person. I think this acknowledgement is great.”
Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of the British Fashion Council, showered fulsome praise on McQueen. “I think it’s great that he’s been given the same medal as The Beatles. He’s been just as influential, probably more so,” he told WWD.
Born in London’s East End in 1969, McQueen left school at 16 and worked on Savile Row mastering the methods of pattern cutting, some of which date back to the 16th century. At 21, he left for Milan to work for Romeo Gigli before returning to London, where he completed a M.A. at Central St Martins School of Art. After graduating in 1993, he set up the Alexander McQueen label.
Three years later, he was named chief designer at Givenchy, where he would remain for four stormy years. In 1996, he became one of the youngest designers to win British Designer of the Year, an honor bestowed on him again in 1997 and in 2001. In December 2000, McQueen sold 51 percent of his company to Gucci Group with the aim of reestablishing his signature label. In March, on his 34th birthday, McQueen launched his first signature fragrance, Kingdom. Bath and body products are set to follow in September.