Lee Alexander McQueen, CBE (1969 – 2010) was a great British fashion designer. He worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and then founded his own Alexander McQueen label. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year Awards (1996, 1997, 2001, 2003), as well as the CFDA’s International Designer of the Year Award in 2003.
In his personal life, McQueen was quite shy. At the end of every catwalk show, he would dash out to take a quick bow in his plaid shirt, sweatshirt and baggy jeans. His longtime friend Daphne Guinness, whom McQueen met after seeing her across the street wearing his dragon-embroidered kimono, wrote that he was: “adorable and kind, and he’s unbelievably good to his friends – generous without noise”. He was loyal to his friends; in 2005 after the scandal in which Kate Moss was caught on camera using cocaine, McQueen took his catwalk bow wearing a tee-shirt that read: “We love you Kate.”
McQueen was renowned for the theatricality of his fashion shows, but because of his imagination, precision tailoring and attention to detail, the effect was more beautiful than shocking. His catwalk shows were never less than 10 minutes of pure theatrical energy. Featuring spray-painted gowns, a pyramid containing a hologram of Moss, amputee models, or dresses made from fresh flowers, a McQueen show was always innovative, unexpected and much anticipated.
Openly gay, he described himself as “the pink sheep of the family”. In 2000, he married his lover, filmmaker George Forsyth. The wedding was held on a yacht in Ibiza, with Moss as a bridesmaid. They divorced a year later.
No profile of McQueen could ever resist the phrase “enfant terrible”. McQueen was the bad boy of fashion, yet he was beloved by the establishment.
McQueen took his own life in February 2010. His suicide stunned his fans and the hundreds of international magazine editors and store buyers who had just gathered in Manhattan for the first day of the fall collections at NY Fashion Week at Bryant Park.
His friend, photographer David LaChapelle, said that McQueen “was doing a lot of drugs and was very unhappy” at the time of his death. His mother had passed away just days before.
McQueen left a note saying: “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.”