A man with 'dreams and demons': Fashion Week stops for Alexander McQueen

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Susannah Frankel reports from the service of commemoration for the late designer

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, paid tribute to a "complex and gifted young man" who had spent a career "harnessing his dreams and demons" at a service yesterday to commemorate the life of the British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen.

Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell were among more than 1,000 friends, family members and people from the world of fashion who gathered under the dome of St Paul's cathedral.

As befits a man who always demonstrated a respect for tradition while challenging protocol, the conventional was juxtaposed with the maverick; the sublime with the irreverent. Prayers and hymns were accompanied by the St Paul's Cathedral Consort, as well as the London Community Gospel Choir.

Wintour, who gave the first address, celebrated McQueen's talent, drive and determination, admitting that he had been unique among designers in refusing to genuflect before the altar of her magazine. "He has left us with an exceptional legacy, a talent that soared above us all," she told the congregation of McQueen, who committed suicide in February.

The International Herald Tribune's fashion editor, Suzy Menkes, remembered the first time she met McQueen in his cramped Hoxton studio and spoke of his macabre fascination with religion and death. His legacy, above all, was the pursuit and expression of extraordinary beauty, she said.

Mark McQueen and Gary Hulyer, the designer's nephews, read from the Bible and led the Prayers of Intercession. The designer's friend Annabelle Nielson remembered fondly bickering in the car with "Lee", while his English bull terrier, Juice, sat at her feet, and of Christmas walks on the beach near his house in Hastings.

The jewellery designer Shaun Leane, who knew McQueen longer than most, reminded those present that while McQueen had started out in the East End before moving from a cramped flat in Tooting Bec, South London, to the heights of fashion, he always found time for friends.

"I watched you grow, you broke the boundaries and succeeded," he said.

If, in the early days, McQueen was known for working to a throbbing club soundtrack, in later years visitors to his studio became familiar with his love of classical music, and the composer Michael Nyman in particular. Nyman himself stepped up and played the "The Heart Asks Pleasure First".

In 1997, McQueen designed the album cover for Bjork's Homogenic. He also directed the video for "Alarm Call". The Icelandic singer, in golden skullcap, wooden angel wings and feathered skirt, performed "Gloomy Sunday", originally sung by Billie Holliday, then equally tragically by The Associates' Billy Mackenzie.

A portrait of McQueen, in full Scottish regalia, leaping, open-mouthed and uproarious, as captured by David Bailey, was printed at the front of the Order of Ceremony. The designer was always very proud of his ancestry. It was only apposite, then, that a lone piper led the congregation to the west end of the cathedral as the proceedings came to a close.

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