Alexander McQueen was a British fashion designer and worldwide icon, known for his somewhat controversial fashion collections – so much so that he earned himself nicknames such as ‘l'enfant terrible’ and the ‘hooligan of English fashion’ in his early years.
Next week, McQueen would have been celebrating his 48th birthday. To mark the occasion, we’ve made a timeline comprising seven of his most memorable catwalk moments.
McQueen’s SS99 finale was quite something; part traditional catwalk and part live act, the show certainly made a mark as it remains to stand out as an important moment in fashion history. For those who are unfamiliar, model Shalom Harlow stepped onto a wooden plinth before two robots spray-painted her white dress black and green. The show received wild applause and vast media coverage.
Widely remembered as one of McQueen’s darker shows, his SS01 collection was aptly named ‘Asylum’. Set in a mirrored cube which turned out to be modelled on the holding cell of a mental hospital, models including Kate Moss, Jacquetta Wheeler and Erin O’Connor wore bandages on their heads. Many of the garments themselves were earthy shades of brown and green, and it was the concept, rather than the clothes, that set this show apart from the rest.
Often likened to Little Red Riding Hood, McQueen’s AW02 collection came with fierce looking props. Yes, the models took to the runway with live wolves on metal chains, which reportedly had half of the audience terrified. On top of this, the show was staged inside the Conciergerie, the Paris prison best known for holding Marie Antoinette.
Modelling for McQueen was rarely a breeze and the AW03 show was no different; forget light winds and think more along the lines of a full-blown gale. This was the show where the models walked through a torrential wind tunnel. With beautifully hand painted silk and chiffon billowing behind them, the show created the most captivating of effects. Some pieces of fabric were said to stretch back more than 20 feet.
In a tribute to his close friend, late magazine editor Isabella Blow, McQueen’s SS08 show was heavily based on feathers and plumage, with a large neon bird showcased at the entry to the runway. The silhouettes were strong, and many of the styles were worn pinched in at the waist with corsets or large belts. The show was memorable for all the right reasons, and the perfect dedication to the person who helped McQueen find fashion fame.
In his second dedicative show of the year, McQueen’s AW08 collection was a wonderful tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who appointed him Commander of the British Order back in 2003. Naturally, that meant that much of the collection had a strong regal feel, with imperial reds and golds, velvet and silk. Many of the garments echoed Queen Elizabeth’s 1950s style.
In AW09 collections, many designers had prepared for financial uncertainty by presenting understated garments in what could be considered ‘safe colours’. McQueen, on the other hand, came out with striking houndstooth designs in black white and red. The show split opinions of those in the fashion industry – some loved it, others hated it. Either way, this show hasn’t been forgotten and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
Image copyright: Elliot James