Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alexander McQueen, 1969-2010

I'm a nocturnal person, so rarely do I fall asleep before 4 A.M. Usually, I awake between 10 and 2 P.M. depending on my day's schedule. At waking up at 11 this morning, I had a couple new Blackberry messages, as I always do when I get up. The first one I opened read, "You heard about your boy McQueen?" I had no clue what my friend was talking about, but before I answered, another message came in reading "Alexander McQueen committed suicide!" Just as I was then, I am now- I still don't know what to think or say or even how to feel. I called my ex, reported the news, there was silence. Stunned silence. We both had no words. I heard a shuffle on the phone, some more silence, an attempt to speak on his behalf, but all he could say was "What??" I told him i'd call back with the confirmed report; everyone knows how rumours work. I called back two minutes later sobbing with the news.

As a follower of McQueen on twitter, (his profile has been deleted now it seems) I got the news that his mother had passed away. In retrospect, the tweet seemed a bit... off-handed... Indeed, his previous tweets about his soon-to-be-seen collections seemed more impassioned. But, as an outsider, somebody totally unknowing of what goes in the world of McQueen, I hadn't a clue as to what kind of relationship he had with his mother but who was I to judge? He'd never read it, but I replied to his tweet, expressing my condolences to his family and offering my support to him during his time of loss. This was the last thing I ever expected.

Unlike other art-forms, like say music or visual art, fashion is different in that it's primarily made to be bought and worn. But realistically speaking, only about 2-5 per cent of the world's population can afford McQueen's couture. Hell, McQueen isn't even sold in even the most expensive, most fashionable boutiques in my country, Jamaica. But, like other art-forms, sometimes the point isn't even about who's wearing, who bought it, or who can afford it; now, more than ever, the fashion world has become so accessible, collections becoming instantly iconic for the images seen sauntering and sashaying down the runway, and since McQueen's emergence on the fashion scene in the 90's, he has sent some of the most incendiary, most brilliant, most envelop-pushing images in the entire history of the industry down any runway.

But what does all that mean for an island-boy, one living as diametrically opposed to the fashion world, as Mars is opposed to Earth? Well, before I was all fashion-savvy, it meant nothing, really. But in 2003 or so, when I started listening to Icelandic pop singer, Björk, (all my ex's fault) I was floored by one single image- that of the geisha-esque album cover of one of my fave albums, Homogenic. Designed by McQueen himself, my interest was instantly piqued in the man.

I researched him. I went through every available image he had on I sifted through all mags and collected spreads and editorials with his pieces. I became fixated and obsessed. Who was this man with his dark visions? Why was he so stylistically different than any of his fellow designers?? It's sad, because we may never know the answer to that now that he has passed away, but as the son of a taxi driver, (him, not me) McQueen inspired me, heck, he turned me on to fashion!

Here he was, from humble beginnings, no pedigree to his name, but daring to dream big. In the fashion world, that shit is hard. How dare you come from out of nowhere and try to take shit over? He may not have heard those words, but in his first couple of collections for the house of Givenchy, his audacity was unsurprisingly met by scathing reviews from fashion editors and critics. But he stuck to it.
He changed the way I looked at fashion and fashion shows, indeed, his very ideas caused me to think. Period. His thought and thought patterns moved me, and I wish I had even an ounce of his creativity. Yves St. Laurent may have been more of a classicist, but McQueen I hold in high-esteem as the premiere talent of my generation.
In the 90's he catered to the angst-y, post-Nirvana iconic hipsters of my teen years like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, sending them down the runway in grunge. Nowadays, he's been embraced by a whole new generation of tabloid-makers and fashion chameleons, (Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker) but i'm sure the thing that meant the most to McQueen was when Isabella Blow bought his entire graduation collection. Blow was there for him and believed in him before the world criticized then jumped on his bang wagon. I can only imagine the grief he suffered when Blow herself died in 2007.
Some may say his creativity waned in recent years, but that was hardly the point. This man had earned the right to send models completely naked down the runway- and it would still have been our obligation to praise him if he so chose.

McQueen will never know of me, but I know of him, and for that, my life will perpetually be inspired and enriched. He inspired me to think, he inspired me to be different, he inspired me to dream and for that, I am eternally grateful. Godspeed, McQueen. Godspeed.


  1. well said my friend... very beautiful!!!!!!

  2. Heartfelt post DW. Well said. RIP McQueen

  3. Wow great write up. What an amazing designer he was... Sorry it hurt you the way it did.

  4. This was well done DW. Sad really