At lunchtime on February 11 2010 we found out that Lee was dead. I was sitting then where I am sitting right now - today February 11 2011 - finding it hard to believe a year has passed. It has been a year of pain and growth for the Alexander McQueen brand which is thriving without him, but which only thrives because of him and his team, including the gentle and beautifully talented Sarah Burton who now designs the label.
You may be wondering why these images are here. They come from Lee's "Untitled" collection for Spring/Summer 1998. The real name of the show was "Golden Shower" which (for those of you who don't know) can refer to the sexual practise when lovers pee on each other because it turns them on. (No, I don't get it either). Understandably Lee's sponsors for this show, American Express, were unhappy with the name and its connotations so in a strop Lee decided to leave it untitled. Typical.
There was always, always a surprise with a McQueen show, even when the venue was not exciting, as in this instance when we were seated in a purpose built British Fashion Council tent. For me as a young journalist - I was fashion writer of The Independent from 1996-1999 - Lee's shows were the absolute highlight no matter what. The hairs on the back of my neck would go up from the first second of the show. My job was to file late news reports on his show (always the evening event) to copy-takers; in those not-so-long-ago days we still had to scribble our copy out and phone it in. McQueen was my beat.
Fortunately I also knew Lee as we used to go to the same parties. In fact Lee had introduced me to my girlfriend at that time Sonja Nuttall who he had studied with on the St Martins MA. Deciding we would be a perfect couple he pushed us together at a party and told us we had to snog! So I have that to thank him for too, as later on Sonja and I were together for five years.
So here we are at this catwalk show, which had a lot of boobage on show. Shaun Leane had created a silver rib-cage and spine item of body-jewellery and the music was hard house; Lee loved to bombard us with a wall of sound as he correctly believed it added to heightening the experience.
Just as we thought the show had ended the room went pitch black, and the white runway became translucent and lit from within. A hum thrummed menacingly from the sound system. At that moment we could see the runway was full of water that was slowly turning from clear to black, and the soundtrack ceased to silence. Next a crack of thunder exploded from the speakers making us all jump.
Then it began to rain. Inside. The heavens opened above the runway and all the models emerged again for a finale in white draped dresses and walked sadly and slowly down the catwalk, the rain making their eye-makeup smudge all over their pretty faces. Do you recognise Gisele Bundchen in the above picture? This was one of the very first shows of her career
Finally, the moment that will stay with me. From the silence the song "I Can't Stand the Rain" by Eruption - below- radiated from the speakers like a balm to our beaten up souls (beaten up by him, I might add). I remember laughing with pure happiness at the end of that show. His creativity, inventiveness and total fuck you attitude summed up the time we were living in better than anyone else.
I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN AGAINST MY WINDOW
BECAUSE HE'S NOT HERE
Top image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty