At just 40 years old, the brilliant and trend-setting designer had hanged himself inside a wardrobe on the eve of his mother's funeral shortly before the 2010 Fall New York runway show that would sadly be his last. Close friends and family knew that McQueen had been battling depression, but few expected such a drastic turn from the young designer who was at the height of his very successful career.
Now, just one year later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted an exciting and hotly anticipated retrospective of McQueen's designs that span his student work from the early 1990s to his last days. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty will be on display at the MET's Costume Institute from May 4 to July 31, 2011. It will feature many of the designer's iconic designs drawn from the Alexander McQueen Archives in London and Paris as well as private collections, including the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the Origami frock coat. The images that follow are just a few of the designs that will be on display.
Unlike his peers, McQueen was a bit of a rebel, constantly exploring extreme looks and exploiting classic, yet exaggerated, silhouettes of the 1860s, 1880s, 1890s, and 1950s. His highly developed technical skill kept his whims in check, however, as the celebrated designer had spent his early years learning the intricacies of formal tailoring on London's Savile Row.
After tailoring clothing for dignitaries, McQueen enrolled in London's University of the Arts at Central Saint Martins where he majored in clothing design. His postgraduate collection, which he finished in 1992, turned more than a few heads. Influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow bought McQueen's entire student collection, convinced him to adopt his middle name Alexander as his first (dropping Lee), and helped launch his career.
It wasn't long before McQueen earned the reputation of fashion's bad boy. Year after year, his theatrical runway shows made headlines, frequently blurring the lines between fashion, theater, and performance art, and drawing on dark themes like abuse, alienation, and death. Early on he had established relationships with high profile musicians, such as Björk, who he would not only design clothing for, but would end up directing the music video for Alarm Call, a single from the 1997 album Homogenic. Much later, Lady Gaga wore Alexander McQueen in her Bad Romance video.
Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art," said Andrew Bolton, Curator of the Costume Institute. "His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word—he channeled the sublime."
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty will feature more than 100 of the designer's cutting edge works, along with "Cabinet of Curiosities," a gallery of hats and jewelry he designed with milliner Philip Treacy and jeweler Shaun Leane. A separate screening room will show videos from McQueen's elaborate runway presentations.