Alexander McQueen, a startup of haute-couture


In the early 1990s, McQueen made something unusual in fashion clothes such as he create some things that were totally new. For example, he introduced frock coats. He said that fashion is about truth. “I am just honest”.

He was able to cut clothes in a way that seemed very easy. He was totally confident in the way he used scissors. He would cut directly onto de model. Moreover, he wasn't cut by just using textile fabric for clothing: shells, leather, glass, metal… and he was inspired by performance art, film, the Gothic, Victorian dress… He put all these things together and creates something totally new. He was an entrepreneur. The outsider of East End introduces the idea of craft in fashion.

Alexander Lee McQueen became an apprentice tailor at Anderson&Sheppard. It was not related to London fashion. From 1985 to 1987, McQueen learned cutting and tailoring. So Lee was a one of the firm's best coat-makers who master tailor.

In order to increase his tailoring skills, later he joined Gieves&Hawkes, where he trained as a trouser cutter. Then he worked as a freelance pattern cutter.

From 1989 to 1990 Lee McQueen worked for Koji Tatsuno as a pattern cutter. A friend at Tatsuno introduced Lee to John McKitterick, designer for streetwear brand Red or Dead, so for a year he worked as a pattern cutter. And he became more ambitious about what he could reach in fashion.

So he went to Italy without place to stay, money and  knowing the language. A week later he arrived to Milan, he got a job. He got a work in Gigli as a pattern cutter. Romeo Gigli had encyclopaedic references, so he was the only designer in Milan who Lee wanted to work. In this moment, he was quitte passionate looking new shapes fairly deeply.

When the contract was finish he went back to London.

The next step was Central Saint Martins. Lee was interested in studying there because he can be free. He made a MA fashion course. It was a transition of being a tailor and cutter to being a fashion designer. “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims” is Lee McQueen's degree collection that was shown in July 1992. He had the ability to take the past and rethinking them, and also to think about the dark side. The whole collection was bought by Isabella Blow who was the Establishment and introduced Lee in a new world of artists, aristocrats and actors. She said about this collection: «The pieces were moving in a way I haven't  seen before. The perfect combination».

He founded his own label Alexander McQueen  in 1992.

His ready-to-wear collection for A/W 1993 was an homage to the 1982 film Blade Runner with the models styled as the iconic android Rachel, which wardrobe was linked to 1940s fashion by the designer Charles Knode's. None of these references will connect with Givenchy style: Audrey Hepburn in breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

So Lee didn't take a normal path into being a fashion designer. He left school at 16 and studied for four years on Saville Row learning the tools of the tailoring trade. Later he works as a cutter for some brands and finally he studied a MA fashion degree at Central Saint Martins.

Big fashion houses began hiring rebellious talents so McQueen was hired by Givenchy “Haute Couture”, founded in 1951 by Hubert de Givenchy. Lee was working for a brand which style was not his own from 1996 to 2001, succeeding John Galiano. It was a two-year contract with a £1 million over two years. So with that money, he financed his own line: «The money was good. It let me to pay my own workers» (said Lee). The first McQueen's show at Givenchy wasn't a success.

While the McQueen line was awarded as a Designer of the year by the British Fashion Council for a second time in 1997, his design line at Givenchy failed to like to Givenchy's buyers.

By 2000 McQueen had produced close to 30 collections in three years. But Givenchy clothes which were more and more easy to wear wasn't selling.

In December 2000, the Gucci Group acquired 51% of McQueen's company where he stayed as a creative director.

Alexander McQueen reinvented the role of the women in contemporary society like as a visionary. What made he unique was his exceptional tailoring skills that allow his ideas to have a three-dimensional shape and not to be only dreams.

Text by Y.Muriel

Unfortunately, you can't teach talent but you can teach to be more professional or to do better (Alexander McQueen).

If you play safe, you can't go so far (Alexander McQueen).

I don't care if you love it, I just want you feel something (Alexander McQueen).

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