How I started…02 - Alexander McQueen

Lee Alexander McQueen is one of the most influential British Fashion designers. He is famous for his tendency to oscillate between contrasting elements: darkness and lightness, trouble and optimism, and fragility and strength. He worked as head designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and launched his own label under his name Alexander McQueen.

McQueen was a struggling teenager who couldn’t socialize with his classmates. He eventually quit school at the age of sixteen with one qualification in art. That same year, London’s Savile Row was suffering from a shortage of apprentices. Serendipitously McQueen’s mother saw a television news report on the situation, and persuaded him to apply.

©Alexander McQueen

In those days, Cornelius O’Callaghan, one of the most successful coat makers in the business, appointed tailors by the British royal family, was also looking for young apprentices. Fortunately, the firm preferred trainees who had not any formal fashion education because they found them more easily trainable. McQueen finally started his career on Savile Row and worked there for two years.

©Alexander McQueen 2001

While learning the cut of British bespoke tailoring and concentrating on historical women’s costume of nineteenth century, a recession struck the British fashion industry and  McQueen moved to Milan.

There was nothing going on in London, and the biggest thing at that time was Romeo Gigli. He was everywhere. I thought this is the only person I want to work for. My sister was a travel agent. I got a flight, a one-way ticket to Milan. I was twenty years old. I walked into Romeo Gigli with the worst portfolio you’ve ever seen, full of costume design. They said they had nothing for me and that they’d call me if anything came up. Anyway, I was walking down the street afterwards and this girl came screaming up to me like a madwoman: ‘Stop, stop, stop, Romeo wants to see you. He wants to see you tomorrow. Come back.

The next morning McQueen was employed.

©Givenchy 1997

© Givenchy 1997

After working at Gigli, he returned to London and studied at Central Saint Martins. In 1996, at the age of 27 and having created eight collections, McQueen succeeded John Galliano as head designer at Givenchy in Paris. Although his first collection with Givency did not get an enthusiastic response, he caused a huge stir in the fall of ’98 with a dramatic avant-garde show.

© Alexander McQueen Show

©Alexander McQueen Show


©Alexander McQueen 2007

©Alexander McQueen 2009-2010

©Alexander McQueen 2010

©Alexander McQueen 2010

Alexander McQueen formed a partnership with the luxury brand Gucci in 2000. Extension followed the opening of flagship stores in New York, London and Milan, leading to global recognition of his brand.

© Alexander McQueen

By the time of his tragic death in 2010, he left collections of extraordinary designs and influenced fashion designers around the world. He will be remembered for his unique style, unparalleled genius, and inspired creativity.

Research by Chloe Park

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