Alexander McQueen is known for controversial designs. Gothic styles that juxtaposed the highest and lowest fashion. Political commentary and larger meanings were a large part of his work.
The fashion designer passed away in 2010, but the fashion house lives on. It still pays tribute to McQueen’s style and vision.
The designs are edgy. However, they are not edgy simply for the sake of being edgy. There is artistry in every piece that speaks to the soul of the average person just as it does fashion experts.
The brand is eclectic, featuring evening dresses, sneakers, and everything in between. Wearing Alexander McQueen apparel allows you to step outside of convention and embrace the diversity that makes the world beautiful.
Before you purchase Alexander McQueen clothing, and if you haven’t, you should, here are 20 things you should know about the iconic fashion brand.
1. Alexander McQueen Dropped Out of School at 16
Alexander McQueen came from humble beginnings. He was born to a working-class family. He grew up in London with five brothers and sisters.
At 16, he dropped out of school and began working on Saville Row. Saville Row was a London street famous for designing made-to-order men’s suits.
He got his start at Anderson and Shepard, then moved on to another nearby tailor shop.
2. Discovering His Style
Alexander McQueen found a love for design and theatrics. This led him to work on costume designs at Angels and Bermans.
From there, he went to Milan, where he worked with Italian fashion designer Romeo Gigli. He returned to London and earned an M.A. in fashion in 1992.
3. Jack the Ripper
The culmination of his design education was his debut collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims. As the name suggests, the collection was dark and disturbing. It was also sexy and whimsical, in the way only the darkest things can be.
Human hair was sewn into several pieces of the clothing, including a white silk dress that allowed the hair to show through. Another dress featured pink satin, with a barbed wire pattern printed onto the material.
Isabella Blow was at the fashion show when the collection was presented. She was so taken with the designs she bought the entire collection for 5,000 pounds.
4. Bumster Pants
Bumster pants were first featured in the Taxi Driver collection. They had an extremely low rise, stopping at, or sometimes below, the top of the butt.
It’s thought that Mcqueen got the idea from “builders bum”, which is commonly known as “plumber’s crack” in the U.S. Men working blue-collar jobs would often have their pants unintentionally down too low.
When asked about the trousers, McQueen said it was actually about elongating the female form, not showing the bum.
He stated, “To me, that part of the body – not so much the buttocks, but the bottom of the spine – that’s the most erotic part of anyone’s body, man or woman”.
Met curator Andrew Bolton said the bumster helped seal Alexander McQueen’s reputation as a provocateur. He had a passion for anarchy, particularly the anarchy of the British streets, which he incorporated into his clothing.
5. The Highland Rape Collection
The Jack the Ripper collection might have given Alexander McQueen his start, but it was the Highland Rape collection that truly grabbed the world’s attention and made him a world-renowned fashion designer.
The collection was originally thought to reference the rape of women. McQueen could be considered a women’s activist and had a strong desire to empower the women who wore his clothing.
However, it referenced the rape of Scotland by England. It drew upon the uprising in the 18th century and the Highland Clearances that occurred during the 19th century. McQueen was making a statement about his lineage and the history of his culture on the world stage.
The pieces were dark, romantic, and tragic. Gauzy feminine dresses were torn and frayed. Some models stumbled down the runway as if they were emerging from a battle, while others marched and saluted. Still, others walked with confidence, the classic model strut exaggerated for effect.
6. He Worked at Givenchy
Givenchy is a brand from the fashion house Louis Vuitton. The French design house is known for its luxurious clothing, including shoes and handbags, and its perfume line.
It’s most popular with baby boomers, where it ranks 8th among luxury brands. Givenchy is known for sensuous elegance.
The edgy and rebellious McQueen did excellent work, but his style didn’t line up with what Givenchy represented. Four years out of design school, he had the prestigious position of chief designer.
He remained at Givenchy from 1996-2001. He certainly pushed the limits of fashion during this time period but felt stifled by the company’s aesthetic.
Despite feeling “constrained creatively”, he won British Designer of the Year 3 out of the 6 years he worked for the fashion house.
7. The Startling Joan Collection
The 1998 show Joan might be the creepiest show of McQueen’s career. It also highlighted his talent for storytelling.
It was based on Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc lived during the 1400s. She is a canonized saint, but she was a controversial figure in her time.
In an attempt to save France from British control, she dressed in men’s armor and cut her hair, leading an army to speak to the king.
The first dress in the Joan collection was a dress made of chain mail, which was a reference to Joan’s wearing armor. Another dress was floor-length, featuring a chain mail hood.
Another piece was black leather, complete with armor. Other pieces featured quilting fabric that was tailored and form-fitting, a juxtaposition that was classic McQueen.
The finale featured a flaming runway. The model wore a faceless hood and a revealing red dress. This symbolized Joan’s death. She was burned at the stake as a heretic for the visions that had made her a hero.
8. Partnership With Gucci
Gucci purchased a controlling interest in McQueen’s company in 2000, giving him the capital and creative freedom the British designer needed.
In 2003, he was declared International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He was also named Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England.
9. Alexander McQueen’s Death
McQueen had developed a close business and personal relationship with Isabella Blow after his first fashion show. She died in 2007. He dedicated his 2008 spring line to her. He’s quoted as saying that her death was “the most valuable thing I learned in fashion”.
Two years later, his mother passed as well. McQueen was found in his London apartment on the day of her funeral. The cause of death was determined to be suicide.
10. Creative Director Sarah Burton
Sarah Burton had long been McQueen’s co-designer. After his tragic death, she took the role of creative director. In 2011, McQueen’s work was featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as a way to honor his memory and contribution to the industry.
Perhaps more meaningful is that the Alexander McQueen brand lives on under the direction of Sarah Burton. You’ll find the same contradictory and controversial style that McQueen brought to the fashion world in the current collection.
11. Giselle Bundchen Debut
Giselle might be a household name now, but in 1998, she was just an 18-year-old Brazilian bombshell trying to make it as a model.
McQueen saw her talent and made her the spotlight of the Spring 1998 fashion show. It was first titled Golden Shower. Understandable protests from sponsors led to the title being changed to Unnamed.
The catwalk was made from Lucite tanks filled with water, back-lit with white lights. The models wore form-fitting snakeskin dresses and tailored suits. White, black, and gold predominated the color palate.
For the finale, all the models were dressed in white. They were showered with water, which made the dresses see-through and caused their mascara to run.
12. Early Work With Celebrities
David Bowie is arguably one of the most iconic music stars of all time. McQueen was the head designer for the costumes for Bowie’s 1996 and 1997 tours. He also designed the Union Jacket featured on the cover of the Earthling album.
Bjork also hired McQueen. He created the cover for the 1997 album Homogenic and directed the music video for the song Alarm Call from the album.
You may have noticed that history was a large source of inspiration for McQueen. However, it wasn’t the only inspiration.
He loved diving, particularly in the Maldives. This was the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis collection. It was also social commentary. McQueen stated in a press release that humans had come from the sea, and the melting ice caps may send humanity back to these origins.
Reptile patterned digitally printed short dresses dominated the Spring collection. Colors represented the sea, including brown, green, blue, and aqua. Tailored suits were present, along with trousers made from material resembling shark skin.
The real star of the show, however, was the armadillo shoes. They were designed to look like part of the wearer. They possessed a grotesque beauty, with a squared bulky mass paired with a stiletto heel.
They were hand-carved from wood but looked like snake scales or armadillo armor. These shoes weren’t meant to be worn beyond the runway, but a few fans purchased the shoes.
14. Streaming First
The Spring Plato’s Atlantis collection was also a first for streaming fashion. The live stream crashed when Lady Gaga tweeted about the event. Viewers flocked to the live stream, which brought down the servers.
15. Savage Beauty Exhibition
The original Savage Beauty Exhibition was held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York museum received record attendance for the exhibition.
It featured six galleries taken from McQueen’s most iconic collections. They were categorized by theme, with romance being the overarching theme.
In 2015, it was presented at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Ticket sales exceeded 480,000. The demand was so large, the museum remained open overnight during the final two weeks of the exhibition. This was the first time it changed its hours to meet demand.
16. Sarah Burton’s First Show
Sarah Burton’s first show as official creative director was the Spring 2011 collection. Burton maintained the theatrics and fantasy elements seen in McQueen’s work.
However, her collection was softer. The models began in plain white dresses. As the show progressed, pieces included the iconic monarch butterfly dress and a pleated organza gown that resembles a sea anemone. Another gown had a skirt of pheasant feathers and a breastplate of gilded cornstalks.
17. Menswear Collection
Alexander McQueen’s first foray into menswear was launched in 2001. The collection was a collaboration with Huntsman, Saville Row tailors. This allowed McQueen to go back to his roots.
18. Alexander McQueen Sneakers
Alexander McQueen’s sneakers were first released in 2015. The trend has remained a style staple. Search for an Alexander McQueen review, and you are likely to be met with many reviews praising the trainers.
They feature either an exaggerated or oversized sole. They are made with top-quality Italian leather. The sneakers are black or white, with lots of color choices, including metallics, for the heel.
19. The Garbage Collection
McQueen’s 2009 Garbage collection featured models in elaborate dresses walking down a runway strewn with pieces from prior collections. All the models wore trash bags on their heads.
The Garbage collection might have been inspired by an earlier event McQueen experienced. In 1993, McQueen was displayed at the British Fashion Council newcomer’s showcase.
After the show, McQueen went out partying with friends. He had stored the collection in trash bags and hid them near a trash can. The next day, McQueen went to retrieve the clothes, only to find they had been taken out with the trash.
20. McQueen Was a Dog Lover
McQueen was an avid dog lover. In his will, he left 50,000 Euros for the care of his beloved pets. He also left 100,000 Euros each to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in South London, and the Blue Cross animal welfare.
Alexander McQueen Apparel FAQs
Is Alexander McQueen a luxury brand?
Alexander McQueen is considered a luxury brand. Luxury brands feature quality merchandise at high-end prices. They are often rare or exclusive. Perhaps most importantly, luxury brands offer something that you can’t find with lower-end products.
How do you tell if Alexander McQueen’s are real?
First, examine the box. Alexander McQueen boxes are bright white, with a perfectly centered logo. The dust bag will also be bright white and rectangular. Knock-offs are often square. The tissue paper will be very thin, as opposed to fakes which generally have thicker paper. Next, check the stitches. Stitches on authentic Alexander McQueen apparel will be even, the same size, and neat. Knock-offs will have lower quality stitching, which is often uneven.
Does Gucci own Alexander McQueen?
Gucci and Alexander McQueen are owned by the French company Kering, formerly PPR.
Why is Alexander McQueen so popular?
Alexander McQueen is known for groundbreaking and provocative fashion designs. McQueen was a fashion industry bad boy, earning the nickname “l’enfant terrible”, which translates to the terrible infant. McQueen’s designs were often dark, melancholic, and romantic. The runway pieces are breathtaking, and the ready-to-wear collections are innovative.
Who is running Alexander McQueen now?
Sarah Jane Burton is the current creative designer of Alexander McQueen. She worked alongside McQueen for 15 years. After his death in 2010, she took over the company.
Where are Alexander McQueen trainers made?
Alexander McQueen trainers are made in Italy from genuine Italian leather. They are designed to be fashionable, understated, and supple.
Do Alexander McQueen clothes run true to size?
Sneakers run true to size. When it comes to clothing, they often run a size small.
Are Alexander McQueen clothes made in Turkey?
Alexander McQueen clothes are made in the UK, Italy, and France. However, many fake products are manufactured in China.
Who wore Alexander McQueen clothes?
Alexander McQueen’s clothing has been worn by many famous names, including Kate Middleton, Naomi Campbell, and Sarah Jessica Parker. McQueen sneakers are popular with celebrities and rappers, including Jennifer Lopez and Katie Holmes.
Where can I buy Alexander McQueen apparel?
You can order Alexander McQueen apparel from the company’s website. High-end department stores including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom also carry the clothing line. Some Alexander McQueen apparel, including sneakers and accessories, can also be purchased on Amazon.
What type of clothes does Alexander McQueen design?
Alexander McQueen designs a wide range of clothing and accessories for men and women. They offer a full line of clothing, including coats, dresses, t-shirts, trousers, and denim. Shoes include sneakers, boots, pumps, sandals, and tread slick. You’ll also find a range of bags, including purses, backpacks, and belt pouches. Accessories include belts, sunglasses, scarves, and jewelry.
What was the 2021 Alexander McQueen collection about?
The 2021 collection was inspired by the Covid-19 lockdown. The whimsy that Burton often displayed with her designs was stripped away. Instead, the pieces were bare bones, somehow sinisterly beautiful in their simplicity.
Burton did follow the McQueen tradition of hybridization. A biker jacket with tulle sleeves and a ballroom skirt and a poplin dress combined with a pique shirt were a few examples. Menswear was mixed with womenswear. Past was combined with the present.
Burton declined interviews. She wasn’t able to make her traditional trips across the UK for research due to the lockdown. The collection reflects the stark beauty of empty London streets. There’s a sense of romance and loneliness, which is classic McQueen.
Burton stated, “I believe that it is our responsibility to protect the things we love from the past, to preserve our values, signatures, and history, but it is also our job to innovate.”
How Did Alexander McQueen change fashion?
Alexander McQueen was a clothing designer with a flair for the theatrical. He changed the way runway shows were presented. His shows were highly artistic, and each piece of clothing and staging had meaning.
The poetic theatrical style is now common on runways. He was a fashion house bad boy, known for his anti-establishment views. He used his collections as a way to speak out about social injustice and inequality, as well as the problems that plague modern society. He brought the world bumster pants, which became the pants often called extreme low rise or low rise.
Why is Alexander McQueen expensive?
There are several reasons why Alexander McQueen apparel is expensive. First is the design and design house, commonly known as the brand name. It’s often said that you are only paying for the label, and you can get a better deal by purchasing from a less expensive brand.
However, the brand name and design make the clothing popular and coveted. Alexander McQueen offers a poetic style that sets trends. The brand name is also usually an indication of quality. Alexander McQueen sneakers, for example, are made from Italian leather in Italy. This sets them apart from lower-end brands.
Lastly, luxury economics affect the price consumers are willing to pay. Expensive items are status symbols, and wearing them can make you part of the “it club”. This means that higher-priced items will sell well, offering the wearer prestige.
Who was Alexander McQueen’s muse?
McQueen had several muses throughout the years. However, his first would be Isabella Blow. She bought his debut collection, and the two became fast friends. Isabella influenced and supported McQueen’s work.