Thursday, February 11, 2010

RIP Alexander the Great

Los Angeles Times reports, Alexander McQueen, the fashion world's reigning provocateur who helped elevate British fashion to the international stage with his unconventional and sometimes macabre designs, was found dead Thursday at his home in London. He was 40.

The police have not released an official report on the cause of death, but his press representatives at KCD Worldwide said it appeared to be a suicide.

As a designer, McQueen was not only a technical genius but a creative genius as well. His theatrical runway productions were often controversial, casting models as witches, rape victims and mental patients, challenging the notions of what is beautiful and what is grotesque.

He was known for rigorously tailored jackets, second-skin repeating-pattern leggings and dresses, gravity-defying lobster-claw shoes -- which Lady Gaga daringly donned in her "Bad Romance" video -- and a fascination with the macabre that lent itself to suitcases with rib-cage motifs and sweaters with cable-knit skulls and crossbones.

"A gifted iconoclast, who could just as easily be creating art as fashion," was how former Times fashion editor Mimi Avins described McQueen upon seeing his clothes for the first time in 1996.

Eric Jennings, vice president and men's fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue who was among the buyers and media members attending McQueen's Milan menswear show last month, described the designer Thursday as an icon.

"It's a tragedy; Alexander McQueen has been a tremendous resource for us," Jennings said.

Death seemed never to be far from McQueen's mind both on the runway and off. In a 2008 interview with The Times the day before his 39th birthday, he said the suicide of his longtime friend and mentor, the eccentric stylist Isabella Blow, had a profound effect on him.

And at what turned out to be his final runway show, the presentation of his fall menswear collection last month in Milan, the macabre was manifested as a repeating photo-realistic print pattern that evoked the neatly stacked piles of bones found in catacombs.

McQueen's death comes days after his mother Joyce's death Feb. 2, and weeks before he was due to present his fall women's collection in Paris. He is survived by his father, Ron, and five siblings, Janet McQueen, Tracey Chapman, Jacqui McQueen, Tony McQueen and Michael McQueen.