Wednesday, 2 March 2011

An Ode to Lee McQueen

     As the fashion world mourns in horror over the sudden demise of John Galliano, we are left in a state of wonder as to who may succeed him as head designer of Dior. However, this also reminds us of the far greater distresses of last year, when on February 11th 2010, the one and only, Lee Alexander McQueen committed suicide. 

       A year on and a Channel 4 documentary has been released in both his and his discoverer, Isabella Blow's honour - 'McQueen & I'. However, if, like me, you attempted to 'settle' down in front of it last with a cup of tea and a pack of Maltesers, you would have been left rather unsettled by a new-found stage of mourning . A new-found stage of mourning, which continues to overwhelm us because unlike last year, our sadness is now devoid of disbelief and we are forced to confront the grief that, despite Sarah Burton's honourable continuation and interpretation of the McQueen label, Lee, both its founder and its essence is gone - as are his often disturbing, yet always brilliant fashion shows.

     How can the likes of McQueen creating the Shalom Harlow dress whilst on the Givenchy runway not intrigue and inspire you? How can it be replicated by a successor?

   He was - and still is - the creative master, who designers and fashion lovers alike look up to in the hopes that they to may able to create something...beautiful; because whether McQueen's works were for Givenchy or his own label, they always managed to possess a magical originality often absent from both the world of fashion and reality today. From McQueen's 1996 bumsters to the nature-inspired dresses of his SS 2010 collection, there was always an innovative and theatrical quality to his work, which never allowed the individuality of his shows to outshine them.

 Each look he created was stunning.

     However, it was not the exuberance but the expressive nature of his designs, which made them so beautiful. One need only remember the mirrored cube show of SS 2001, in which he sat his audience in front of a mirror for two hours, confronting them with their reflections, before revealing models in his signature Gothic dresses, enclosed in boxes of butterflies, and then the shocking image of the naked lady, with which he closed the show.

     Or more poignantly the disturbing qualities of his final designs, which focused heavily on religious themes and consisted of a haunting dark versus light palette. They reflected the life and death situation, in which McQueen found himself  at the time. However, it was not light but darkness, which overcame. It was not life but death - and thus McQueen, like his loyal supporter and advisor Isabella Blow, took his own life. He was found hanging in his bedroom - dramatic to the point of death, leaving us all in a continuous state of despair.

Lee Alexander McQueen
17 March 1969 - 11 February 2010

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