A juxtaposition of the storied arcs of two of fashion’s most celebrated, and ultimately doomed, geniuses.
The lives of fashion designers Lee Alexander McQueen (1969-2010) and John Galliano (b. 1960) have certainly been explored before. However, by comparing the victories and defeats of the two and adding in her own contemporary remembrances of each, T: The New York Times Style Magazine contributing editor Thomas (Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, 2007) has crafted a compelling drama about the high-stakes world of couture culture. Strangely, both men came from virtually the same background. Galliano was the son of a plumber, and McQueen was from London’s rough-and-tumble East End; they both landed at Central Saint Martins, the much-lauded art school. Thomas tracks the arc as Galliano parlayed his bad-boy reputation into the leading role at Dior. His is a strange portrait; he is a self-styled romantic who has admitted he doesn’t like designing for women because their breasts “spoil the line.” And then there’s the force of nature that was McQueen, who was driven quite mad by the pressures of his role at Givenchy. “If Galliano was a romantic, McQueen was a pornographer,” writes the author. “The Larry Flynt of fashion. He didn’t believe in frontiers. He didn’t believe anything was off-limits. Nothing was taboo. He accepted the brutality of human nature, didn’t try to suppress it. He didn’t want to put women on a pedestal like untouchable, unreachable goddesses. He wanted to empower them. He wanted to help them use the force of their sexuality to its fullest.” Anyone who even skirts this strange atmosphere knows the story ends badly with McQueen’s suicide in 2010 and Galliano’s long banishment after a drunken, anti-Semitic rant in France. This is a dark story about excess, commerce, aristocracy and fashion as high theater that is as operatic as the dizzying shows it describes.
A deep dive into the provocative art of creation and the toll it exacts from those touched by its gifts.