McQueen: beloved bad boy of British fashion

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Alexander McQueen was the quintessential bad boy made good, rising from London's East End via couture house Givenchy to his own label to become one of Britain's best known and most unique designers.

McQueen, who died in London on Thursday aged 40, mixed classic Savile Row tailoring with a sense of theatricality and a love of the provocative.

In his early career he was described as a "maverick", "enfant terrible", "rough diamond" and even "hooligan", but those terms belied the crucial secret of his success - his immense talent as a tailor and designer.

His clothes were loved by celebrities including Cate Blanchett and Kate Moss, who said she was "devastated" at his death, while couture supremo Karl Lagerfeld said in his tribute that he was always interesting, "never banal."

He was born Lee Alexander McQueen on March 17, 1969, in London, one of six children supported by their taxi driver father. He left school at 16 and was immediately taken on as an apprentice in the home of British tailoring, London's Savile Row.

His time at Anderson and Sheppard, and then Gieves and Hawkes was a masterclass in tailoring - and also the first chance to show his wicked side.

Industry 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.

McQueen then moved to the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans, where he mastered methods of pattern cutting and a theatrical style which would become a defining feature of his future designs.

After spells with designers Romeo Gigli and Koji Tatsuno, he returned to London to do a Master's at what is now Central Saint Martins college of art and famously had his entire degree show bought by stylist Isabella Blow.

He later dedicated an entire show to Blow following her suicide in 2007.

McQueen quickly became a controversial figure, notably by designing the famous "bumster" trousers, which displayed the cleavage between model's buttocks in a parody of the low-slung trousers worn by construction workers.

The designer occasionally pushed the boundaries of even the liberal fashion elite, presenting one collection featuring ripped clothing, and entitled "Highland Rape", based on supposed rape victims.

He recovered, however, and was named British Designer of the Year four times over the next decade.

After earning the first of these titles in 1996, McQueen abandoned Britain and moved to France, following another Londoner, John Galliano, as chief designer at the French haute couture house Givenchy.

His appearance at such an ultra-conservative label, owned by one of the biggest luxury goods corporations in the world, LVMH, sparked outrage in the French press but did little to dampen his rebellious streak.

While he toned down some of his shock tactics for Paris, his skinhead appearance, heavy Doctor Martens boots and Cockney accent ensured he stood out.

He enjoyed a further brush with notoriety when he included a disabled amputee model walking on carved wooden legs in a London catwalk show.

In 2000, McQueen's position was secured when Gucci bought out 51 percent of his eponymous label, sparking a decade of expansion into perfume, menswear and most recently, a denim-based collection entitled "McQ".

His last collection, for spring/summer 2010 collection featuring alien inspired make-up and reptilian prints, was praised as his best ever.

McQueen was openly gay and in 2000 had a ceremony of vows with his lover George Forsyth, a documentary film maker, on a yacht on Ibiza.

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