Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Alexander McQueen is going back to his roots.
The designer said his new denim and sunglass collections are the beginning of a total rethink of what the McQueen label is all about. The denim line, called McQueens, is produced by his licensing partner Gibo, the Florence manufacturer that also makes the designer’s main line. The sunglasses are produced under license by Murai Inc. of Japan.
“I want to get back to why I got into design in the first place,” said McQueen in a telephone interview from New York, where he was working with photographer Steven Klein on the first ad campaign for his sunglass line. “It was to push design forward.
“There are too many repetitions in the market and everything is too safe. I want to become more avant-garde and rely even more on my gut instinct. It’s no longer about just being commercial. I’ve seen commercial at Givenchy, and that doesn’t always make for a happy daddy.”
The denim collection is the start of that process. McQueen said he’s always done denim. His goal in launching McQueens was to offer pieces at lower prices to make his aesthetic accessible to a broader customer base.
“I showed McQueens with my main line and we treat it as part of that, although it is really a second line,” the designer said. “The idea with McQueens is to get away from the basic 501 shape that everyone keeps doing. We want to treat denim differently and construct it differently.”
The women’s and men’s collections include such signature McQueen looks as “bumster” low-hanging jeans, denim jackets with slanted seams and denim all-in-ones featuring pants or skirts. There also are A-line shapes with diagonal panels, skirts with long trains and hand-sewn embroidery or patches on jeans, skirts and jackets.
Washes include a grainy indigo, a pale stonewash and a wash that creates a pleat-like or worn effect on the thigh. The line also uses leather, corduroy and cotton jersey.
Retail prices for the denim collection range from about $80 for a T-shirt to $1,280 for a leather jacket. The line is being distributed in North America by Onward Kashiyama USA Inc., the subsidiary of Onward Kashiyama, the owner of Gibo. It will launch at retail in July.
“The first collection was adequate, but we always learn by trial and error,” McQueen said. “The second, which we’ve just finished, is even better. There’s a lot of styling involved and a lot of construction. It’s trying to treat denim like any other fabric and taking it completely out there.”
He wants to do the same in sunglasses. Murai, which also produces sunglasses for Jean Paul Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto, launched McQueen sunglasses in Japan in September 1999. It will introduce the line worldwide at retail in July, and the first collection will consist of about 15 styles. Most of the designs are sharply angular. The glasses will retail for about $275.
McQueen admitted he had to learn the basics of designing sunglasses before he could bring his aesthetic to the product. But, he added, he’s a fast learner and focused on five facial shapes to develop styles suited to almost everyone. The second collection, which he’s already completed, will launch at retail this fall and will include seven more styles.
“In America and Europe, everyone is reintroducing the aviator or the Ray-Ban look,” McQueen said. “We wanted to get away from that and do something new and different. Once I learned the basics I could push it further.
“It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sell right away. The key is that eventually it will, and then it will come back to me as the one who started it. I’ve learned at Givenchy that nothing is an overnight success and, frankly, I’m not in design to be an overnight success.
“I’ve been too restricted in my thinking and too worried about the commercial side. The sales of McQueen will come. What I want to do is to make fashion fun again. At the moment, the beast is definitely stale.”