12 February 2010

Alexander McQueen, Fashion Designer, Dead at 40

Washington Post

The death of designer Alexander McQueen strikes at the fashion industry's creative core, not because he had the most lucrative business or because he launched the greatest number of trends that trickled down to suburban malls. Instead, McQueen represented the kind of volatile imagination that transforms clothes into a cultural tapestry, intensely personal therapy and political provocation.

The British designer, who was found dead Thursday in his London home, was 40 years old. The death was an apparent suicide. It had been a long time since he'd been considered an enfant terrible. But he, more than any of the 20-something designers working today (who like to consider themselves subversive), was able to use fashion as a tool for agitating folks out of their preconceived notions about femininity, power and even romance. Over the course of a career that lasted more than 15 years, he tackled the social impact of body-cloaking chadors, the stigma of disability, the role of technology in dehumanizing our lives, the historical subjugation of women and even the way in which modern women sometimes allow themselves to be victims -- sometimes of society and sometimes of fashion.

McQueen was able to back up his flamboyance, his audacity and his sometimes irascible personality with the impeccable tailoring that he learned during his early apprenticeship on Britain's Savile Row. McQueen was not merely flash and petulance. He was substance, too.

His career took him from Savile Row to the corporate boardrooms of LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessey Louis Vuitton, where he served as creative director of Givenchy. But in 2000, he defected from the French firm and joined Gucci Group, which bought a controlling interest in his signature label. McQueen retained creative control and under the guidance of Gucci Group's chairman Domenico de Sole, he seemed to flourish.

McQueen's death comes just as designers in New York have begun unveiling their fall 2010 collections. McQueen was scheduled to show his line in Paris in March.

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