British fashion designer Alexander McQueen found dead

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Flamboyant British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home on Thursday, after apparently committing suicide, police and reports said.

Emergency services were called to the 40-year-old's home in central London, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. A Scotland Yard spokesman said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

"We were called to an address at 10.20 am this morning by the ambulance service after reports of a man found dead," the police spokesman told AFP. "He is believed to be 40 years old. Next of kin have been informed.

"The death is being treated as non-suspicious."

A spokeswoman for the designer, who rapidly built an international reputation for his outrageous fashion creations, said: "Mr McQueen was found dead this morning at his home.

"We're devastated and I hope you understand that out of respect to his family and his colleagues we're not going to be making any further statement," she added.

Born in London's East End into a working-class family - his father was a taxi driver - McQueen rose to fame after graduating from London's celebrated St Martin's College of Art and Design in 1991.

McQueen, a four-time winner of the British designer of the year award, was creative director of his own label which was majority-owned by Gucci and was one of Britain's most lauded fashion designers.

His close friend and fashion icon Isabella Blow killed herself three years ago at the age of 48. She died after telling friends she was going out shopping.

McQueen's cut his teeth as a tailor in Saville Row, where legend has it that he left his distinctive mark - in the form of hand-written obscenities - in the lining of a jacket for Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.

After spells with designers Romeo Gigli and Koji Tatsuno, he started his own label and quickly became a controversial figure.

He notably designed the famous "bumster" trousers, which displayed the cleavage between model's buttocks in a parody of the low-slung trousers worn by workers on London building sites.

He even survived the general condemnation which surrounded a collection featuring ripped clothing, and entitled "Highland Rape", which was the first time anyone had chosen to send supposed rape victims down the catwalk.

After earning the title of best British designer of the Year in 1996, he moved across the English Channel to France, following another Londoner, John Galliano, as chief designer at Givenchy, where he continued to shock.

He toned down his shock tactics for Paris but enjoyed a further brush with notoriety when he included a disabled amputee model walking on carved wooden legs in a London catwalk show.

McQueen's position in the mainstream was assured in 2000, however, when the Gucci Group bought out 51 percent of his eponymous label, and the past decade has seen him launch flagship stores in New York, London and Milan.

He had a perfume line, launched his first menswear collection in 2004 and most recently launching a denim-based collection entitled McQ.

His death came days before London fashion week, and ahead of Paris fashion next month.

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