Posted by the Fashion Editor at Large
Maybe it's because he was just a few years older than me and my friends. Maybe its because it shouldn't have happened. Maybe its because it is so sad that he was all alone at the end, and the futility of it all got to him. But myself, my social group and generation - we are all in grief. We are mourning the loss of Lee Alexander McQueen hard. I fell asleep crying last night, and woke at four in the morning to see one of my close friends had left a message, I could hardly hear the words she said she was sobbing so much.
I didn't even know him properly. Just in passing. A nod when I saw him out in the gay girl clubs he so loved to frequent, we also shared some female friends. The last time I interviewed him, he turned the tables and ended up quizzing me on my personal life, remembering how, at a party in the late 90's he made me snog a girl who went on to be my girlfriend for five years. He cackled his head off at the memory, (he had the memory of an elephant). He looked happier then.
But he was always fighting his demons.
To my generation, Lee was one of us. A working class hero who made it to the top in a world populated by the middle-to-upper class bracket of folk; all the time wearing his heart on his sleeve. He didn't conform (well, there was the lipo and the veneers) and that was why we loved him.
Its a sad day when this world is too much for someone like him. Without him, fashion will never be the same again.
The British media have done a decent job in covering his death today, especially Lisa Armstrong at The Times and Jess Cartner-Morely at the Guardian, but a million stars should go to the exemplary coverage today by WWD.com. It will not be bettered. To that end I read though their reams of excellent copy and pulled out the memories and quotes that I think best honour his memory today. Thank you WWD.
MEMORIES OF LEE
“The staggering thing about him was that he literally cut fabric off the bolt, folded it very perfectly on the floor, and asked for the scissors from his very attentive assistant. He would then think about it and attack the piece of fabric and hold it to the girl, and there was the dress or the jacket in place. I hadn’t ever watched anyone work so fluently and so directly. These carpets of ideas that he just laid out on my floor, and he spoke for two hours without drawing breath. He just floored you every time.”
Camilla Nickerson, (the fashion stylist and senior contributing fashion editor at W magazine)
“He spotted me across Leicester Square. I was wearing his Givenchy kimono with the dragon on the back. We became good friends. He was the kindest, shiest, funniest person. And when the chips were down, he was there. He wasn’t a flake. You could count on him. I will miss him. He was an aristocrat in the true sense of the word. He had a natural grace, natural patrician instincts. And he had so much compassion and a big heart. We would go to his studio and do simple things — sit and have a cup of tea — and just have fun. We’d play around like kids and imagine that we were in a world that wasn’t so cynical and money-driven.”
Daphne Guinness - friend and long-time Alexander McQueen client
Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò, one of the first supporters and producers of McQueen, described him as “adorable, extremely sensitive and very fragile,” remembering how he would “cry for his troubled love stories” or his deep affection for dogs, for example. “While he projected a bad-boy image earlier on in his career, he was very shy and had an incredible humanity,” said Pené. Pené also said he was “one of the most incredible, naturally creative minds, who could even sketch an entire collection in one day.”
"At the last McQueen show I went to, the fall 2004 collection, he came up to me and hugged me, and he was crying. He was very upset that I was leaving. He was shy, but once you got to know him he was very open and he had a great sense of humor — he used to make fun of people. He was also a very decent man: He was unbelievably nice to all of the seamstresses in the factory in Novara [Italy] who made his collection. He treated them well and they loved him. He was just a fabulous person.”
Domenico de Sole who was the president of PPR until 2004, and the man who orchestrated the buying of 51% of the McQueen brand in 2001.
“I remember my first time I saw Alexander McQueen. He was in a tatty little apartment in the East End, so small you could hardly swing the proverbial cat. The whole floor was chaotic with bits of fabric and things lying around, bits of thread.…It looked like a kind of joke-Victorian vision of a fashion designer. My other great memory of him was after the show when he mooned, as we say in British English, showing his butt to the world at the end of the show. I went backstage and he was crying and he said, ‘I’ve blown it, I’ve blown it,’ meaning he’d made a mess of everything, and I said, ‘You haven’t. It was a wonderful show and you just have to pick up and go on.’ And he did.”
Suzy Menkes fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune
FASHION TRIBUTES TO LEE
“McQueen was daring, original, exciting. He shook up the establishment with his creativity and understood what it takes to be a great British ambassador for fashion. I admired him very much. He was a fashion revolutionary that, like me, made the journey from [Central] Saint Martins to Paris where he put his own unique mark on the industry. He will not be forgotten.” John Galliano, artistic director Christian Dior
“A great talent has left us and we will miss him and everything that he has done for fashion.” - Jean Paul Gaultier
“[I] would like to pay tribute not only to the man, but also to a friend for whom he felt respect, admiration and affection.”
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of PPR
“Lee was a fashion genius. I don’t say that lightly, and it is a total shock that I am referring to him in the past tense. He was a real friend. I will miss him as a mate, a peer, and as a true British talent, full of life and energy in everything he ever did.”
“Lee had a set of skills before he came on the course. He’d worked as a cutter in Italy for people like Romeo Gigli, and because he had those skills, he could distort the woman’s body and push the boundaries in cutting and tailoring. His seminal shows sent a shiver up the back of my spine and that doesn’t happen very often.”
Professor Louise Wilson, course director of the MA program at Central Saint Martins
“I think every designer’s dream is to have that talent, that vision and that integrity.”
"At the time Issy was mocked for supporting a cab driver's son - and people were critical of Alexander because he was such a rebel - but he came through for Issy, and his success was his vindication. I hope they are together now."
Detmar Blow, Isabella's widower
“He was a very strong person, but at the same time very weak. I learned from him a lot about the industry, the pressure, the creativity and being very true to yourself. He made London and made it really powerful. His presentations were not just about clothing. He made dreams come true and nightmares come true."
Miguel Adrover, friend and fellow designer.
“There is no way back for me now. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.”
Lee Alexander McQueen
17 March 1969-
11 February 2010
Images thanks to catwalking.com