The Alexander McQueen Effect: A Retrospective

BY Tabitha Glaysher / Feb 11 2020 / 10:05 AM

On the ten year anniversary of Alexander McQueen's tragic passing, BAZAAR reflects on the savage beauty and intense fragility of the world's most deeply mourned fashion genius

The Alexander McQueen Effect: A Retrospective

Models backstage at what would become Alexander McQueen's final show - S/S10: 'Pluto's Atlantis'

Apicaresque fashion hero, whose personal life became as sensationalised as his designs, Alexander Lee McQueen’s role in the industry still prevails today; this month marking a decade since his death. Rising from humble beginnings as a taxi-driver and homemaker’s son, his legacy shuns naysayers and, instead, emerges victorious as one that belongs to the ultimate fashion icon of the century.

Backstage at the Autumn-Winter 2006 'Widows of Culloden' show

The inquisitive designer cut his teeth as an apprentice in London’s Saville Row before studying at the esteemed Central Saint Martins, where the world got its first taste for the auteur’s awe-inspiring runway theatrics, his gift for razor-sharp tailoring and his ever-curious perspective. While the effect bestowed on those fortunate enough to witness Alexander’s fashion-week spectacles was poignant from the start, his work was never without a sentimental message.

Whether constructing collections that served as fabric protection to the fragile women he surrounded himself with, or championing amputee models, his position at the forefront of exploratory and unabashed innovation knew little, if any, bounds. While the ‘bumster’ trousers may have stayed in the early '90s, the skull prints, butterfly motifs and Victorian-goth aesthetic so synonymous with his DNA still lives on in the house today, under the exceptional stewardship of Creative Director, Sarah Burton.

Backstage at Spring-Summer 2008 show

The designer toed the line between fashion and fine art throughout his career, and even when succeeding John Galliano as Givenchy’s chief designer, as well as driving forward his own eponymous label – which saw him designing up to ten shows a year – his dedication to intricate detail and a macabre aesthetic pulled in both crowds and sales time and time again. While the extreme volume of work befitted his obsessive immersion in his beloved craft, it finally took its toll on the troubled maverick.

While the creative artist’s critical recognition and industry accolades stretch far and wide, he once voiced, “If you want to know me, look at my work.” They say legends never die, and that is true of the lasting impression Alexander’s work holds.

Backstage at Alexander McQueen's Autumn-Winter 2009: 'The Horn of Plenty' show

"Alexander McQueen’s design legacy will live forever. I miss working with him and his sheer originality.” Philip Treacy

Ten years after Alexander McQueen died, you see his influence everywhere: the razor-sharp suits, menacing shoulders, hard looks – the idea that clothes are a woman’s armour. McQueen’s work was considered radical in its time, but society has finally caught up to what he was doing and saying. Some designers even copy McQueen’s once-vilified creations, line-for-line, and are applauded for those clothes now (as well as called out for plagiarism by Diet Prada).

A Philip Treacy headpiece as seen at his Spring-Summer 2008 show

McQueen also nurtured a generation of young designers, encouraging bold experimentation, and their embrace of technology in fashion – and they have since risen to prominence and are carrying on what he started – like Iris van Herpen, who started out as a McQueen intern. I am certain that McQueen’s work, ideas and courage will percolate through fashion for decades to come.” – Dana Thomas, author of  'Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano'


From Harper's BAZAAR Arabia's February 2020 Issue