The House of McQueen
Alexander McQueen received an M.A. in fashion design in 1992 from Central Saint Martin's College of Art & Design, where the major project of his degree was a dark work, revealing his fascination with Victorian culture, called Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims. It portended the turbulent yet impeccably tailored images that plumbed the raging contradictions in McQueen’s fashion design.
The cocky son of a cab driver wore “a thorn-print, silk frock coat with a three-point ‘origami’ tail, and a bustle-backed tuxedo with a dagger like, red-lined lapel—both with locks of human hair sewn into the lining,” according to Vogue. His collection was purchased in its entirety by Isabella Blow, a well-known London stylist, who became a strong advocate for his work.
By then McQueen was deeply entrenched in the fashion world. When he was 16, he had started on Savile Row, a street in London’s Mayfair district, well-known for making men’s suits made-to-order. He began at Anderson and Shephard, and later moved to Gieves and Hawkes.
The raw skills he developed on Savile Row working as an apprentice helped him build a reputation in the fashion world as an expert tailor.
McQueen then went to Milan, where he worked with Italian fashion designer Romeo Gigli.
The Givenchy Years
After finishing his degree in London, McQueen began designing clothes for women. His “bumster” pants became extremely successful, in part because pop queen Madonna wore them. They were later credited for the rise in popularity of the low-rise jeans.
In 1996 McQueen was named Chief Designer at Givenchy, the French haute couture fashion house.
The designer would later say: "I treated Givenchy badly. It was just money to me. But there was nothing I could do: the only way it would have worked would have been if they had allowed me to change the whole concept of the house, to give it a new identity, and they never wanted me to do that."
Despite his inability to make the designs at Givenchy his own, McQueen still won British Designer of the Year in 1996, 1997, and 2001, all during his tenure there.
In 2000, Gucci took a controlling stake in McQueen's private company, while still allowing him to have creative reign. The deal however provided capital to expand, and it was shortly thereafter that he left Givenchy.
Alexander McQueen: The Designer
In 2003, McQueen won International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He was also awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England. In addition, he won British Designer of the Year again.
Meanwhile, McQueen opened flagship stores in New York, Milan, London, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. He became more successful than ever. Fragrances sold together with eyewear and handbags. Menswear was introduced in 2004.
In 2005 at the height of McQueen’s career, he introduced McQ as a means to reach another segment of the fashion market. With offerings at a lower price point, McQ offered womenswear, menswear, and accessories designed for everyday wear, but still embodying the original brands artwork.
McQ collections offered youthful, modern pieces rooted in street culture, delighting in shock and rebellion.