Alexander McQueen profile: a life in fashion

A look back at the career of one of Britain's most successful designers

Lee McQueen was born in the East End of London on 17 March 1969, the son of a taxi driver and the youngest of six children.

He left school at 16 to serve an apprenticeship at the Savile Row tailors Anderson and Shephard, eventually making suits for Prince Charles.

McQueen later worked for Gieves & Hawkes and the theatre costumiers Angels, before being employed, aged 20, by Koji Tatsuno, a Japanese designer with links to London.

A year later McQueen was in Italy, working as a design assistant to Romeo Gigli, a Faenza-born designer renowned for his use of luxury fabrics.

By 1994 he was back in London, where he completed a masters degree in fashion design at Central St Martins College of Art and Design. His degree collection was bought in its entirety by the fashion icon Isabella Blow, a move that created a lasting friendship only broken when Blow killed herself in 2007.

After graduating McQueen set up his own label, based in the East End, where he launched his "bumster" trousers – extremely low slung trousers revealing the wearer's buttocks – and increased the fame of his label through numerous newspaper headlines.

He was appointed head designer at the French label Givenchy in October 1996, working there until leaving in March 2001, reportedly claiming the contract was "constraining his creativity".

In December 2000, Gucci Group acquired 51% of his Alexander McQueen label, where McQueen remained employed as creative director until his death.

He saw the label flourish throughout the 2000s, releasing women's and men's ready-to-wear collections as well as accessories, eyewear and two fragrances.

By 2007 there were Alexander McQueen boutiques in New York, London, Los Angeles, Milan and Las Vegas, although the year was a difficult one personally, with the death of Blow in May 2007.

Said to be devastated by her death, McQueen dedicated his 2008 spring and summer show at Paris fashion week to the Tatler fashion director.

In July 2008 the Alexander McQueen internet store launched, allowing fans to purchase directly from McQueen's website. Rihanna and Lady GaGa are just two of the many celebrities frequently seen wearing Alexander McQueen, with GaGa reportedly incorporating his work into her music videos.

One of McQueen's lifelong passions was scuba diving, and in a 2009 interview he described it as a source of inspiration. His spring 2010 collection, Plato's Atlantis, appeared to draw heavily on an underwater theme.

The designer's mother, Joyce, died on 2 February this year.

McQueen was named British designer of the year in 1996, 1997, 2001, and 2003, and international designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2003. He won the Fashion Directors Award in 2007 for his McQ denim-based brand, and was GQ's menswear designer of the year in 2007.

He was awarded the CBE in 2003.


Adam Gabbatt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Fashion designer Alexander McQueen dies aged 40

Tributes flow in for 'master of the fantastic' found dead at West End home a few days before London fashion week

Mark Tran

11, Feb, 2010 @6:48 PM

Article image
‘Darkness and light’: Alexander McQueen fashion house comes home to London
Rooftop catwalk show celebrated the city and its ‘unpredictable skies’, said designer Sarah Burton

Jess Cartner-Morley Fashion editor

12, Oct, 2021 @6:52 PM

Article image
Video | Paris Fashion Week: Alexander McQueen

Late designer's protege Sarah Burton steals the show in Paris

06, Oct, 2010 @7:37 AM

Article image
Alexander McQueen dives deep into fashion

Alexander McQueen creates a fashion spectacle as deep-sea aliens take to the catwalk in Paris

Rachel Holmes

07, Oct, 2009 @1:32 PM

Article image
Alexander McQueen: A life in pictures

Alexander McQueen has died aged 40. We take a look back at his catwalk collections, his career highs, and the celebrities who supported his label on the red carpet

11, Feb, 2010 @5:56 PM

Article image
Alexander McQueen collection shocks Paris fashion week with extreme beauty

Creative director Sarah Burton casts aside the serenity of royal wedding dresses in favour of fetish-inspired fashion-as-theatre

Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

04, Oct, 2011 @11:44 PM

Article image
Alexander McQueen at Paris fashion week - in pictures

The Observer's Jo Jones and Helen Seamons access all areas as Sarah Burton unveils a visually arresting show for Alexander McQueen

05, Oct, 2011 @12:25 PM

Article image
Alexander McQueen: family and fashion royalty pay tributes at St Paul's

Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Anna Wintour among friends at memorial service for Alexander McQueen

Jess Cartner-Morley, fashion editor

20, Sep, 2010 @4:08 PM

Article image
Alexander McQueen hanged himself, inquest told
Award-winning fashion designer, who left note at scene, had been distressed by death of his mother

James Meikle

17, Feb, 2010 @10:58 AM

Article image
Alexander McQueen label to be sustained, French owner PPR says
French owner PPR says late designer's new collection will be shown in Paris as planned, and his brand will be maintained

Lizzy Davies in Paris

18, Feb, 2010 @4:05 PM