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McQueen, Alexander (1969-2010)  
 
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One of McQueen's most controversial shows grew from his art direction of an issue of the alternative fashion magazine Dazed & Confused about models with severe physical disabilities. The subsequent catwalk show inspired by the issue featured model Aimee Mullins, whose legs had been amputated from the knees down, walking down the catwalk on hand carved wooden legs. The show was presented in a spirit of empowerment and inclusivity.

At the age of 26 McQueen became the chief designer at the French couture house Givenchy, taking over from fellow Englishman John Galliano. McQueen's appointment caused a stir in Paris (as did the appointment of Galliano at Dior), where the fashion press considered Hubert de Givenchy royalty in French design and McQueen a "commoner."

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Questions about McQueen's talent and ability were quickly silenced, however, after he dazzled Pairs with his first show, which combined exquisite tailoring skills with a hard-edged street style. McQueen was asked to prepare ten collections a year for Givenchy, while continuing to release his own collections under his own name.

Despite McQueen's success at Givenchy, the alliance was never a happy marriage. The young designer's hard-edged chic was at odds with the restrained French elegance of Hubert de Givenchy. To compound the difficulties, McQueen refused to learn French or to immerse himself into French life.

By October 2000 rumors began to spread that McQueen was planning to defect from Givenchy and its parent company LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and that the other major player in the fashion world, Gucci Group (whose creative director Tom Ford had shown much interest in McQueen and his work), was on the verge of offering McQueen a deal.

In October 2001 McQueen's relationship with LVMH finally ended. Gucci Group bought a 51 per cent share in McQueen's company for a reputed £54,000,000. The deal also included ten new McQueen stores and the establishment of McQueen's own "house" in Paris in 2002. This move shows great faith both in McQueen's talent as a designer and as a businessman.

The McQueen mix of outrageous theater, stunning and provocative design, and precise tailoring led to continued success in the fashion world.

In 2003, he was named Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

McQueen gained new fame among younger fashion devotees when celebrities such as Madonna and Lady Gaga wore his designs.

On February 11, 2010, he was found dead at his London home, apparently a suicide. His mother had died days earlier and it is believed that his death occurred in a period of despondency over her loss.

Shaun Cole

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Fashion

The association between homosexuality and fashion is multifaceted, ranging from the role of clothes as signifiers of sexual orientation to the immense contributions gay men have made at all levels of the fashion industry.

arts >> Dior, Christian

French designer Christian Dior revitalized haute couture after World War II, creating luxurious designs characterized by a feminine classic elegance.

arts >> Ford, Tom

Heralded as the savior of men's fashion, openly gay designer Tom Ford has both tapped into and assisted the fundamental change in men's attitude towards their appearance; he has since become a film director.

arts >> Galliano, John

The highly theatrical style of British fashion designer John Galliano probably reflects his personal style as an openly gay man.


    Bibliography
   

Barber, Lynn. "Emperor of Bare Bottoms." Observer Life (December 15, 1996): 4-7.

D'Souza, Christa. "McQueen and Country." The Observer Magazine (March 4, 2001): 10-18.

Enninful, Edward. "Great British Fashion." i-D 121 (October 1993): 90-92.

Frankel, Susannah. "The Real McQueen." The Independent Fashion Magazine (Autumn-Winter 2000): 6-15. Rpt. Frankel, Susannah. Visionaries. London: V&A Publications, 2001.

Marcus, Tony. "I Am the Resurrection." i-D 179 (September 1998): 146-149.

Steele, Valerie. "'Style in Revolt': Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood." Radical Fashion. Claire Wilcox, ed. London: V&A Publications, 2001. 46-53.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Cole, Shaun  
    Entry Title: McQueen, Alexander  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 23, 2010  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/mcqueen_a.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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