Visionary, genius, tortured soul – two years after Alexander McQueen’s suicide, his creative legacy continues to inspire and amaze.
I wanted to change the way women looked.
Tragic as it is that the full acknowledgement of Alexander McQueen’s achievement came posthumously, he would perhaps have been satisfied to think he has been so greatly appreciated. Obsessed with death – as his macabre use of memento mori proved – he often thought about his legacy. “I’ve had an amazing career. I don’t think anyone could wish for more”, he once said.
His final collection, showing the battle between dark and light, was part of an exhibition last year at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. His earliest work was also on view – extraordinary feats of tailoring bought by his muse and promoter, Isabella Blow. It was Blow who in 1999 introduced Nadja Swarovski to McQueen, signaling the beginning of a decade-long creative relationship.
History is full of designers, but only a handful have had the power to change the way a whole generation dresses: Christian Dior, with his 1947 New Look; Coco Chanel’s cardigan suit in 1954; Mary Quant’s miniskirt in the Sixties; and then McQueen, with his super-low-cut Bumsters in 1993. “I wanted to change the way women looked”. And he did – we’ve been walking around in low-rise pants ever since.
McQueen’s talent let him pull the impossible and the beautiful out of any situation, although it came at a cost. “There is something sinister, quite biographical about what I do”, he said. It took him, and his audiences, to dark places – but he also touched the sublime. “Hopefully”, he reflected, “I will go down in history as a point in fashion”.
Written by Sarah Mower