A day to the decade since the death of Alexander McQueen, Vestiaire Collective is unveiling an online archival sale devoted to pieces by the acclaimed designer. Vestiaire Collective is also featuring an edit of hard-to-find items from its global network of sellers at its store in London’s Selfridges. For both offers, the luxury resale site partnered with Harriet Verney, the niece of McQueen’s former close friend, former colleague and Isabella Blow.
Items range from the Nineties to the early Aughts. McQueen was 40 years old when he committed suicide.
At the beginning of his career in the Eighties, McQueen and Blow were almost inseparable. A fashion editor, creative director and stylist for British magazines and books, Blow is credited with discovering models such as Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl, and championing McQueen and propelling his career.
Reportedly depressed about a cancer diagnosis, Blow made attempted suicide with an overdose of sleeping bills in 2006, before succeeding in May 2007.
Verney was only 16 when she worked as an intern at McQueen’s studio. “He broke the mold in so many different ways,” she said. “It’s wasn’t only with his approach to design and tailoring, but to women’s clothing and dressing women. He considered angles that people hadn’t seen before. A change was needed within the industry, and he ruffled feathers that needed ruffling.”
While too young to attend McQueen’s runway shows — calling them “shows” doesn’t begin to describe them — Verney knew that they were something spectacular. “The Birds,” a 1995 collection, reeled people in,” she said. “Creating clothes for the likes of Bowie and Björk‘s tours sucked us in further. For the Birds, he created beautiful pieces to move like actual birds. All of the top editors made the trek to East London to Christ Church in Spitalfields to see the show. They knew it would be controversial but they were still desperate to see the collection.”
Another standout collection for Verney is McQueen’s “Highland Rape” line. “It was the first time people turned on him slightly, and brought up the question of, ‘Why is a man designing these sorts of collections for women,” she said. “It was as if to say, ‘How dare he.’ The hair and makeup was incredible and the car tires across the dresses stand out in my memory.…I think we were all seduced by the Britishness, the tailoring and the show overall. The La Poupée collection shocked to the core. Then the Givenchy appointment catapulted him into another sphere. I couldn’t choose between all the collections. He always delivered.”
Verney acknowledged the debt the younger generation owes McQueen. “He gave guts to a new generation and shook up the old guard in a way that’s been invaluable,” she said. He encouraged them not to conform and follow a conveyor belt on how you have to become a designer. He shook up that formula. Designers such as Christopher Kane, Richard Quinn, Matty Bovan, Gareth Writer, Duran Lantink and MowaLola share in some ways his spirit.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in April 2011 mounted “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” a grand tour of the designer’s disturbing, absorbing, glorious, soaring and debasing work and demand for the exhibition soared. The show attracted 661,509 visitors between May 4 and Aug. 7, was the eighth most popular exhibit in the museum’s history through 2015 and the highest attendance of any show at the Costume Institute.
It’s no surprise that sellers of McQueen items are seeking to unload their products now that the designer’s death is a decade in hindsight. Luxury resale sites such as The RealReal consigned brands from a set list, accepting pieces that were no more than a decade old. Now, resale sites want the merch, and they want to sell it quickly before the luxury brands themselves decide to take on the business.
Byronesque has taken a different route, launching a Claude Montana capsule collection that was reissued by Byronesque.com with Gareth Pugh serving as creative consultant. Eleven hero styles paid tribute to the French designer, who was known for sculpted and sharply tailored looks that ushered in a period of power dressing in the Eighties.
The reissues come as Montana, along with Paris compatriots Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier, were having a moment. A Mugler retrospective on March 2, 2019 opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and is now heading to Paris, while Gaultier’s “Fashion Freak Show” at the Folies Bergère in Paris — an all-singing, all-dancing review of the designer’s life — that played to packed audiences last year, is headed to Russia.
“Why should so many luxury fashion pieces lie unused in our wardrobes,” Vestiaire Collective said. “Could there be a way to extend the lifespan of these beautiful pieces by bringing them back into circulation?” Vestiaire Collective, which said it’s always encouraged consumers to consider resale as a smart and sustainable approaches to fashion, has grown since its 2009 launch as French company into a global site without losing its French DNA. It now has an international community made up of seven million fashion-savvy members in more than 50 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and the U.S.