The astonishing creations and tormented life of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969-2010).
During his 18-year career, McQueen rose to the pinnacle of international couture, mounting shows that were notably surreal, shocking, and outrageous. Journalist Wilson (Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, 2013, etc.), draws on interviews with the designer’s friends, family, lovers, and co-workers, as well as published sources, to produce a richly detailed life of a man hailed as a genius whose suicide shocked the fashion world. Sexually abused as a child and bullied by classmates because he was gay, McQueen came to the fashion industry defiant and rebellious. After serving as an apprentice to Savile Row tailors, he enrolled at the respected Central Saint Martins art school, culminating his degree with a collection called “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.” Wealthy fashionista Isabella Blow was in the audience, mesmerized by McQueen’s audacity. A black coat with blood-red lining containing human hair seemed to her “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She became a champion and patron of a man who determinedly honed his image as a misfit. Wearing low-slung jeans and old lumberjack shirts, he was, as Plum Sykes said, “smelly and sweaty and grubby,” and—until he underwent gastric band surgery—overweight. Insecure, emotionally fragile, and yearning for romance, he failed to sustain relationships; one man after another left him, overwhelmed by his jealousy, paranoia, and need to control. Drugs and alcohol became his defense against loneliness and stress, and his cocaine addiction intensified after he became creative director at Givenchy, contracted to produce six shows yearly. Each, one boyfriend noted, could not be just “a normal catwalk show, it had to be amazing.” The author details not only the designer’s “stunningly beautiful and deeply unsettling” fashions, but also what McQueen and everyone else wore on every occasion.
Wilson ably and unsparingly portrays the heady, competitive, solipsistic world that celebrated, and ultimately doomed, McQueen.