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Alexander McQueen dead

One of Britain's most talented designers appears to have killed himself

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen has been found dead at his London home, aged only 40. Initial reports indicate that he committed suicide.

McQueen's mother died only days ago and he appears to have been overwhelmed by grief. It was also known that he was badly affected by the death of his close friend and mentor Isabella Blow some three years ago. Blow famously bought his entire graduate collection when he left Central St Martin's - an accolade that kick-started his career. 

It is always tragic when a person dies before their time, and when they have so much to live for and die by their own hand, the feeling of shock is only compounded. McQueen, after all, seemed to lead a life that most of us can only dream of.

It is a great loss to the fashion industry as well as a personal tragedy for his family for McQueen was prodigiously talented, with many years of designing life left in him.

He stood out in the fashion world because he was so very working class, an image he played up to at first but gradually outgrew as he gained in confidence. The son of a taxi driver, he made no bones about his origins but went on to become a four-time winner of the British designer of the year award, head of Givenchy, owner of a string of boutiques around the world and - presumably - a millionaire.

He was awarded the CBE in 2003 for services to the fashion industry.

Although many obits will doubtless concentrate on his shocking clothes, often sent down the runway on bare-breasted models, I will remember him as a really superb tailor who, like Galliano, never had any problem translating his ideas into garments that could be worn on the body.

He learned those skills in Saville Row and later in Milan before coming to designing studies later in life - he applied for a job as a pattern cutter at Central St Martin's and was asked to enroll when they spotted his portfolio. That college knows talent when it sees it, and the rest is history.

RIP Lee Alexander McQueen. 




Yves St Laurent RIP

Yves St Laurent has died at the age of 71, and fashion has lost the most important designer of the 20th century

blog imageOf course, even saying that isn't the truth - fashion design, other than Worth, didn't really begin until the 20th century, so it would be fairer to say that fashion has lost its most important designer EVER.

Most of us are so used to wearing clothes that were pioneered by St Laurent that we don't even notice it. But every time you wear jeans as respectable attire, every time you wear a safari jacket, every time you reach automatically for the black suit or dress, every time you put on a trousersuit or wear trousers in the daytime, you have St Laurent to thank for it. Add the trenchcoat, the peacoat and the 'smoking' black trousersuit for evening, and that's a pretty good legacy to leave as a designer.

St Laurent was also the first designer to make ready to wear respectable - before him, rich women had couture and the rest of us had dressmakers. But St Laurent democratised fashion, opening his Rive Gauche label in 1966 and introducing the word 'boutique' to the high street - for the first time permitting ordinary women to wear a designer line. He also began designing for men in 1976, giving stylish men a true alternative to the Savile Row tailor. So many other designers followed in his footsteps that we tend to forget how revolutionary all this was at the time.

On the catwalk, St Laurent often caused outrage. The first black models ever seen on a runway worked for St Laurent: he was always intrigued by African and ethnic fashion and beauty and this remained a recurring theme in his collections. His street-influenced beatnik fashions of 1960 cost him his job at Dior and his 1940s-influenced collection of 1971 was considered filthy and degrading by the national press, who said the women looked like hookers. His introduction of bare breasts, or breasts scarcely covered by chiffon, scandalised the bourgeousie in the 1980s, while his perfume Opium was castigated for 'glamorising drug use'.

St Laurent was a shy and retiring man whose psyche never gave him an easy time. Recognised as a great talent very young - by Christian Dior - he was head of a fashion house at 21 and had a nervous breakdown shortly after, following conscription into the army where he was mercilessly bullied for his homosexuality. On leaving the army he founded his own fashion house but he struggled with his shyness and his prodigious talent all his life, as well as alcohol and drug problems. He retired at the age of 66 in 2002 and I had the great pleasure of watching, on French television, that entire evening, which was devoted to a St Laurent retrospective, but it was perfectly clear even then that he was very ill and when he died he had been unwell for some time.

When I think of St Laurent, I think firstly of 'le smoking', and then of the famous Mondrian dresses of the 1960s, but his most beautiful collection, by his own admission, was the Russian collection of autumn/winter 1976. Never have such exquisite clothes been seen on a runway, and I doubt that they ever will be again.

The above image is taken from Yves Saint Laurent and Fashion Photography, which is available from [ASIN: US:3823899619]


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