Backstory Behind the Bags: Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen Bag British Fashion Week Givenchy Handbag

"I came to terms with not fitting in a long time ago. I never really fitted in. I don't want to fit in. And now people are buying into that". Those were the words of Alexander McQueen, and as far as I can tell, this was also the mantra he lived by for his collections. The infamous British designer and couturier, who threw curve ball after curve ball to fashion, arguably found the art of celebrating distinctiveness and unique style whilst maintain a sophistication that would make women proud to wear his lines.

Through his collections he championed women, he did not want them to take a backseat or sit on the side lines, but he wanted them to stand tall and stand out. After all, he also said, "I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress".

So how did one man manage to make so many waves in the fashion world? How has one designer successfully managed to make women, (myself included), stop in their tracks and admire his creations? Some might argue it was time dedicated to the fashion world or perhaps the passion he injected into his creations, but for me it was his fearless approach to doing what he believed was right.

Lee Alexander McQueen, who would later become known as just Alexander McQueen, demonstrated a keen interest in fashion from an early age. It was at the age of 16, when he left school, that he embarked on an apprenticeship with Saville Row tailors, Anderson and Sheppard, which arguably set the designer up well for his future career. As one of 6 children, McQueen then went on to work for Gieves and Hawkes and later theatrical costumiers, Angels and Bermans.

Presenting McQueen with his masters some years later, it is believed that it was Isabella Blow, who McQueen went on to have a long-term professional relationship with, that persuaded the British designer to opt for just Alexander when looking ahead to his future career and the label that he would later create.

Within the fashion world, McQueen is renowned for not only founding the Alexander McQueen label but also his stint as the chief designer at Givenchy during the years 1996-2001. Yet it was arguably his own label, which he founded in 1992, that allowed the designer to create waves amongst the fashion elite.

Hosting 'out there' catwalk shows, announcing controversial collection titles, and let's not forget the iconic skull, McQueen's aim to 'not fit in' can be said to have worked as he shocked the major fashion players into taking note.

Yet McQueen's shock tactics didn't appear to have left a vulgar taste in the fashion world's mouth. The designer brought cutting edge creativity to the catwalk and with it came a femininity that wasn't so much delicate but powerful, giving women the sense of empowerment, he had set out to achieve.

Throughout the years McQueen earned himself the infamous British designer title and with that came many awards acknowledging his achievements in fashion. McQueen won a staggering 4 British Designer of the Year awards, (these were given in 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003), as well as winning the CFDA's, (Council of Fashion Designers of America), International Designer of the Year award in 2003.

Tragically, McQueen, who had been in a long-term partnership with George Forsyth, committed suicide at his home in February 2010. In a final honour to the designer, 16 pieces from his unfinished Autumn/Winter collection were showcased on 8th March 2010, as part of Paris Fashion Week.

Following on from his untimely death, his long-standing assistant, Sarah Burton was made the new creative director for the label. Burton showcased her first womenswear line in September 2010 in Paris, and still bring us the distinctive and sophisticated, clothes, handbags and accessories today.

By Stephanie Jade Sleaford


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