On March 17 1969, Alexander McQueen, a name well recognized today, was born into a relatively nameless and financially unstable family. However, unknown to the McQueens, this date marked much more than the birth of a new child, it was the beginning of what would be one of the worlds most revolutionary couturiers of the 21st century. At an early age, Alexander showed glimpses of design talent that foreshadowed his short-lived, but never forgotten, career. Because the McQueen’s seemingly royal name was not reflected in their bank accounts, Alexander began to dress his sisters himself, using the fundamental skills he learned at Carpenters Road Primary School. It was during this time period that he announced his intention to take his dress making talents outside of the family- he was ready to dress the world.
McQueen’s path towards success started with his apprenticeships at Savile Row, Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawks where he learned how to master impeccably tailored looks. At Savile, Alexander gained top tier clients such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles, which put him on the map. Although McQueen was a designer that understood the importance of learning the basics of cut and proportion, there was nothing expected or safe about his design aesthetic. He leveraged his meticulous cutting and sewing skills as a platform to allow the manifestations of his dark, theatrical, and unique creations. At the age of 20, the already somewhat established McQueen traveled to Milan, Italy, where he worked for Romeo Gigli.
After McQueen’s time with Gigli, he traveled back to London and enrolled at Central Saint Martin’s where he completed his masters in Fashion Design. It was after this seemingly beneficial education that McQueen showcased his own line in 1992. Since then, the bold designer has brought striking and somewhat mysteriously vivid collections to the catwalk. His keen eye for proper tailoring has immensely impacted the way his designs look on and off of the runway, leading his reputation to develop at an extremely fast pace. It only took 10 years for him to become one of the most respected designers in the world, as well as one of the youngest to achieve the title “British Designer of the Year.”
In 1996, McQueen was appointed head designer of Givenchy, replacing John Galliano. During his time there, his designs were toned down and he eventually left the company. After splitting from Givenchy and his unexpressive phase, McQueen found his spirit once again. Free from the stricter and more traditional guidelines his previous work held him from, McQueen went on to design one of his most powerful and extravagant collections. In December 2000, 51 percent of McQueen was bought out by Givenchy’s rival, the Gucci Group.
McQueen’s work continues to be an inspiration for designers everywhere. His extravagant and bold designs showcase how clothing is an art form, which continues to carry on after his death. His successor, Sarah Burton, designed arguably the most famous McQueen gown to date, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.