“Give Me Time and I’ll Give You a Revolution” : The History of Alexander McQueen April 19 2022
I spent a year in New York studying decorative art and design at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum through Parsons The New School for Design. One of the perks of being affiliated with that (fabulous, amazing, incredible, insert-your-favorite-adjective-here) institution was free admission to many of the museums in the city—of which there were a lot. I spent a good portion of my year there wandering in and out of the amazing museums the city has to offer, but I always found myself returning most to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maybe it was the varied and interesting collections, the sheer size of the building (it’s impossible to see everything in one day), or the fact that it was mere blocks from the Cooper-Hewitt and steps from Central Park—I just loved it. So you can understand that I was beyond intrigued when the Met announced its retrospective exhibit on Alexander McQueen—who had passed away in February of 2010—to open in May of 2011. I eagerly went up the big marble steps of the Met during the exhibition’s opening week and joined the throngs of people—no exaggeration there, we were all shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling through—entering the halls. And I got in there…and it was amazing. There are some things in life that elicit an emotional response you’re not prepared for, and for me, that exhibit was one of them—maybe it was being this close to a pair of beautiful, sparkling Armadillo shoes? As talented and creative and appreciative of McQueen’s work as the curators of that show must have been, they were lucky they had the collections they did to showcase. How can one piece together a collection of Alexander McQueen clothing, shoes, accessories, video, and commentary without the results being amazing?
In my mind, Alexander McQueen was one of the ultimates. He was stunning and captivating, wildly creative, and stunningly beautiful. On the darker side, he was shocking and raunchy and disturbing. (Like many of the creative geniuses of history, that duality and dark side was reflected in his personal life, as well.) He practically used every single type of material imaginable, and sculpted ordinary things into objects of desire and silhouettes that had never been explored before. Want a big, bold, I-can’t-fit-through-the-doorway-with-this-hoopskirt/headpiece/protruding horns look? You go to McQueen.
Born in London in 1969, Lee Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children. When he was 16, he left school to pursue an apprenticeship with a well-respected tailor on Savile Row. He eventually finished a Master’s program in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martin’s, and showed his MA collection in 1992. The entire collection was bought by the English magazine editor and Philip Treacy muse Isabella Blow, marking the beginning of the duo’s friendship. Just four years later, McQueen was named Chief Designer of Givenchy (taking the place of John Galliano), where he would stay until March of 2001, when he launched his own line.