Monday, 15 March 2010

Alexander McQueen

Many recent tributes to Alexander McQueen have quoted the nickname given to him following his early runway collections, ‘the hooligan of English fashion.’

Yet from the very start of his career it was to Scotland he looked for inspiration. “His first ready to wear collection in the fall of 1995 entitled ‘Highland Rape’ was a self-referential retrospective to the experiences that have shaped his own ethnic-cultural location and identity. For the actual showroom, McQueen transformed a loft-like industrial space into a brooding battleground of mayhem to symbolize 1746's Battle of Culloden in which his actual ancestors, the Jacobite Highland-Scots, were defeated and then subsequently ousted by the British troops under the Duke of Cumberland, ‘the Butcher.’ The rest of The Ghosts That Haunt Us by Matthew Callahan can be found here.
Interviewed in 2006, he reflected, 'at the time, I was finding out so much about my heritage. My mum was researching our family tree, and traced the McQueens back to Skye and the Mull of Kintyre. I learnt about the Highland clearances - it was genocide, and people still feel strongly about it up there. But, anyway, this time I turned all the angst into more of a letting-go. It was more romantic.' here

Shorn of its original rawness and anger, the result in 2006 was a poetic and technically accomplished tale that involved romantic images of Scottish fantasy heroines wandering glens and castle halls in vaguely Victorian tartan crinolines, bird-wing or antler-and-lace headdresses, feathered gowns, and pieces made from brocades that might have been dragged down from ancient wall-hangings.

Some of McQueen's references—like the ones that influenced his sinuous black velvet dresses—appeared to be culled from pre-Raphaelite paintings of Lady Macbeth; others, like a fierce, bell-skirted warrior-woman plaid dress with lace armlets, seemed to owe more to punk. On the down-to-earth side, there was plenty of McQueen's sharp and saleable tailoring on show, and some great coats, like a herringbone fur chesterfield. At the end, though, the ecstatic applause was primarily in honour of the experience—a memory that will go down as one of fashion's all-time highs.“ The full text of the piece by Sarah Mower can be found here.

To us and to his Scottish dad Ronald, a taxi driver and his mum Joyce, social science teacher, he was certainly no ‘hooligan of English fashion‘. On February 11, 2010, Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home. His mother had died days earlier and it is believed that his death occurred in a period of despondency over her loss.

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