Born on 17 March 1969 in Lewisham in the East End of London, England, Lee Alexander McQueen rose to become one of the most famous, renowned and well-respected fashion designers in the world, winning numerous awards and accolades. Alexander McQueen was known for his unique, daring styles. His collections were highly anticipated and popular, with designs often incorporating unexpected elements which frequently both shocked and amazed audiences, pushing boundaries and causing a stir among fashion critics and buyers alike.
Known for his innovative designs, exquisite tailoring, and use of high-quality materials, Alexander McQueen became a household name the world over. In this article, we will take a look at the life and work of Alexander McQueen, including some of his most famous and controversial collections and designs. We will also look at some of our favourite Alexander McQueen fashion pieces housed at Belinda International, including Alexander McQueen dresses such as sculpted dresses and midis, and Alexander McQueen suits including his signature tailored suits, among many other pieces. And finally we will explore why his collections and designs have stood the test of time making him one of the most celebrated fashion designers of his generation.
Education and Early Influences
At the age of 16, Alexander McQueen left school to become an apprentice at Anderson & Sheppard and then Gieves & Hawkes on the iconic and historic centre of menswear and tailoring that is Mayfair’s Savile Row. During this period, Alexander McQueen learnt traditional tailoring techniques including pattern cutting. Four years later, at the age of 20, Alexander McQueen further refined his pattern cutting skills for London-based Japanese fashion designer Koji Tatsuni prior to moving to Milan, Italy to learn the techniques of famed designer Romeo Gigli who was well known for his romantic designs.
Upon returning to London, Alexander McQueen completed the highly regarded MA in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins where he learned and honed his skills in fashion design all the while drawing inspirations from London’s history. This became a theme that would play part in the inspiration of many of his collections throughout his career.
As a student, Alexander McQueen would regularly visit the V&A Museum of Art and Design and this would become an influence on the stylings of many of his future collections, with McQueen stating “the collections at the V&A never fail to intrigue and inspire me”. Alexander McQueen also took inspiration from a number of cultures, traditions and global influences that he was fascinated by with China, India, Turkey, Africa and Japan all places that sparked his imagination and collections, with perhaps Japan and the ancient Kimono being the most prevalent throughout his career.
Another recurring theme throughout the career of Alexander McQueen was the exploration of polarities, these included nature vs technology and man vs machine being two examples that were represented in different collections.
Famous Runway Collections
With a total of 36 runway fashion shows spanning his 18 year career, there were many hits and highlights on and off the catwalk as well as some controversies along the way, with daring styles that pushed the boundaries, with Alexander McQueen even once stating “you’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I'm here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition”.
We have picked four of Alexander McQueens most well known and innovative fashion collections as well as some of the more controversial ones that demonstrate his brilliant style and fashion genius.
Being by far the most controversial runway show from Alexander McQueen, Highland Rape was inspired by England’s rape so called rape of the lands of Scotland and as a shout out to English designers donning flamboyant Scottish clothes. The collection contains pieces with slashed open lines and torn lace which was a representation of how ravaged Scotland had become from the wars with England. The name of the collection was seen by many observers to have other connotations and hence why the collection was so controversial, however also considered to be one of his more innovative collections.
It’s a Jungle Out There
Presented at the Borough Market in Southwark London in February of 1997, “It’s a jungle out there” is the 10th collection from Alexander McQueen featuring a total of 75 different looks containing; fur, silk, leather and acid-washed denim garments. In addition a number of pieces from the collection featured antlers and taxidermy crocodile heads as a nod to the jungle. The collection was critically acclaimed by the press and further established Alexander McQueen as one of the leading figures in fashion.
The first Alexander McQueen collection to be presented at the Gatliff Road warehouse in the summer of 1998 had its name changed as the sponsors of Swarovski and American express were uncomfortable with the original name of “Golden Shower” and the connotations associated with it. The set, in which a runway had been positioned above clear Perspex tanks, was lit from below, and engaged with McQueen’s interest in the transformative qualities of water with rain pouring from the ceiling, drenching the models and causing black mascara tears to run down their faces. Evident in the collection was a love of nature and metamorphosis, identifiable in amphibious designs such as a tight python-skin dress morphing human and animal.
Horn of Plenty
Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/Winter show in Paris in 2009, titled “The Horn of Plenty”, was a masterpiece (which is nothing less than to be expected from Alexander McQueen), with models made up in a terrifying style with lips overdrawn and skin painted white, with no eyebrows or lashes to speak of donning sculptural trash on their heads with everything from plastic bags to umbrellas and lampshades all coordinated with the outfits worn with them. The collection was designed to echo the beauty aesthetic and meant to poke fun at traditional French couture, with garments made out of trash bags and what looked like bubble wrap.
Alexander McQueen and Belinda International
At Belinda International we adore the collections of Alexander McQueen fashion and the legacy created by his inspired pieces of precise British tailoring, the fine workmanship of the French Haute Couture atelier and the impeccable finish of Italian manufacturing. As such we house a number of pieces by the famed designer including; Alexander McQueen dresses, Alexander McQueen suits, Alexander McQueen gowns, Alexander McQueen sneakers and Alexander McQueen accessories just to name a few. Some of our favourite pieces currently available from Alexander McQueen include;
Alexander McQueen Ribbon Detail Long Dress - this long dress is enhanced by a drawstring neck with long straps. The piece arrives in a vibrant yellow hue and is completed by a rear zip fastening. Features include a drawstring neck and is floor-length.
Alexander McQueen Gathered A-Line Midi Dress - Playing with contrasts, Alexander McQueen presents this belted dress. Defined by its A-line design, which is enhanced by the tiered skirt, this dress is adorned with silver-tone hardware for a rebellious finish.
Alexander McQueen Tailored Peplum Cardigan - The epitome of elegance and femininity, Alexander McQueen introduces this cardigan in a pastel palette to update your wardrobe. Executed into a flared silhouette and lined with scallop peplum, this piece projects a romantic ambiance while completing your outfit with gracefulness.
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the designer and collections of Alexander McQueen and if you’re interested in the Alexander McQueen brand and many designer pieces, feel free to browse our collection of Alexander McQueen pieces today.