Curator's Notes : Lee Alexander McQueen

As if he were a prophet of some sorts, Lee Alexander McQueen predicted how 21st Century fashion would become. And this would be based on his cutting edge, adventurous, technically astute and visionary talent.

Sticking true to his vision for the brand, Lee's futuristic approaches on historical fashion were always propelling each season forward. Unlike the commercial fashion of today, he dared to dream and to defy his critics by provoking the notions of fashion. For instance, during his tenure at Givenchy, where he further honed his technical skill, Lee outrightly shocked critics with daring styles and designs.  

In this case, perhaps Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent should learn a thing or two. I mean, if you want to upset critics, at least push the boundaries?


What I learned during my days at McQueen was this:

His techniques and vision were always skilfully interpreted by Sarah Burton. To make the designs her own, and without insulting her former boss, Burton would work on archival silhouettes but would heightened the feminine aesthetic and mellowed out the macabre.

And the fans lapped everything up. The famous names associated with the McQueen label in the past, such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Kristen Mcmenamy were still very much in the present, and still supporting the brand.

My favourite part of the job was always going to the archives, which was a cold clinical environment with rows and rows of white bags. But, beyond those white bags were not just beautiful dreams but blood sweat and tears.

At McQueen it was always about perfection. No doubt that it was not always aesthetically beautifully but the quality of every single piece was just out of this world. There would be pieces to my untrained eye that I would consider totally wearable but the studio assistants would destroy them because they weren’t good enough. Designers there would churn out about a thousand prints or designs to have a few or maybe even none selected. 


I don’t remember a time when I haven’t been into fashion but what led me to fashion? It was definitely Alexander McQueen. There was always something so morbid but romantic about all his collections, and the way he empowered women through his clothing was truly inspiring.

As a young girl, I was enthralled by the romanticism of his collections and as I grew older, I began to understand the darkness.

I had the honour of interning at the revered house of McQueen when I used to live in London. Although we had already lost him a few years before I joined, his imageries and ideas still haunted the Clerkenwell Road office.

And despite it being far from his anti-establishment ways, the staff would continue to remember his ideas and mention his name as if he was there. Fo instance, at many design meetings, it was not uncommon to here phrases like “Lee would have liked it to be..” being thrown around. It was as if we were all waiting for this visionary to walk through those doors and give his nod of approval. 


To me, and to many others in fashion, he embodied the fashion dream and what we all desired to be. With that dream, however, comes tremendous responsibility and hard work. Alexander McQueen gave his all to fashion and it still echoes throughout the halls of his offices. It is the same spirit that lives on in the company today.

At this day and age, where celebrities and bloggers can become fashion designers, much is missed about his era of fashion where above critical and commercial viability, lies a true passion.