On February 11, 2010, the death of Lee Alexander McQueen was covered extensively by leading fashion designer websites. McQueen, the founder of a luxury British fashion house that still bears his name, was found dead in his London apartment. In April 2010, his death was recorded as suicide. His doctor reported that he had been battling chronic mental illness.
At the time of his passing, McQueen had been the brand’s Creative Director since the Gucci Group bought 51% of the shares in his company in 2000. Prior to this appointment, he acted as a lead designer since the brand’s inception in 1992. In the days following his death, the fashion world started to ask what would happen next – would the house close? Who, if anyone, would take over his role?
Lee Alexander McQueen’s Final Collection
Robert Polet, chief executive of the Gucci Group, was quick to reassure fans that the brand would continue and said that a new collection of McQueen clothing would be on display at Paris Fashion Week.
McQueen left behind a final collection that was 80% complete. During Paris Fashion Week in March 2010, these pieces were presented to a small, carefully-curated group of fashion editors. The collection featured medieval colors and imagery, with copious use of silver, gold, and red.
Three months following McQueen’s death, Sarah Burton succeeded McQueen as the brand’s creative director. Burton already had extensive experience, having worked closely with McQueen for almost 15 years.
In June 2010, she launched a men’s underwear collection. The pieces featured some of McQueen’s most iconic designs. When they were made available for sale, some of the profits went to charities that cared for people with AIDS. McQueen was HIV positive; the initiative, therefore, had special personal significance.
In the same month, she staged her first menswear show, ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’ The reviews were mainly positive, as were the reviews for her subsequent womenswear collection. Burton also attracted praise for the wedding dress she designed for Catherine Middleton, who married Prince William in April 2011. The house continues to release several collections each year, including ready-to-wear pieces.
Savage Beauty – Honoring McQueen’s Legacy
In 2011, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition commemorating McQueen’s work and ideas. It opened in May and ran for three months. The show was one of the most well-attended ever staged at the museum, with over 650,000 visitors. Patrons were willing to wait several hours to view the exhibits. The show ran several days longer than initially planned in an attempt to meet demand. In 2015, the exhibition ran for five months in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Again, it was very popular, attracting nearly 500,000 visitors.
Stores & Spaces
Since McQueen’s death, the house has maintained and opened retail spaces worldwide. The brand’s latest store is a flagship branch in Mayfair, London, where visitors can browse the latest collections. The store features an experiential space where they can also learn more about the McQueen brand and design process.
The brand’s boutique store in Paris won the Prix Versailles, a prestigious design award, in 2016, after opening in 2015. There are currently 39 Alexander McQueen retail stores. The clothes are also sold in high-end department stores, including Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Alexander McQueen is remembered as a fashion icon, and his brand is still among the most desirable in the world. His collections and shows were sometimes considered controversial or even shocking. Nonetheless, both his critics and fans regard him as a creative powerhouse who has left a lasting legacy. His distinctive style, commitment to quality, and experimental approach will never be forgotten.