The apparent suicide of designer Lee Alexander McQueen shook the fashion world considerably yesterday. The London-based designer was only 40 years old and at the height of his career. Celebrities, like Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, flocked to his designs and wanted seats at his shows.
While his designs usually incorporated macabre elements, people were shocked to hear that his life had ended. Fashion insiders immediately issued personal statements about their grief and the great loss to the world that McQueen’s death represents. His New York fashion show was canceled and his boutique stores were closed to mourn.
What I find so interesting about this whole story, and so sad, is the fact that the only thing talked about is his work in fashion. Scanning through articles on NPR, CNN, the Huffington Post, The New York Times, and elsewhere readers get a solid picture of his great influence on the industry and a timeline of his rise to fame. But interestingly enough not one article mentions his life outside the industry. There is not one mention of surviving family members, charities he was involved in, causes he supported. According to these sources Alexander McQueen was merely a fashion house and not a person.
(Pic from Telegraph.co.uk)
Even when reading through the personal statements issued by industry gurus there is barely a reference to who McQueen was as a human being. For instance:
Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue: “McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers. His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs.”
Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue: “He brought a uniquely British sense of daring and aesthetic fearlessness to the global stage of fashion. In such a short career, Alexander McQueen’s influence was astonishing — from street style, to music culture and the world’s museums. His passing marks an insurmountable loss.”
Hal Rubenstein, a fashion director for InStyle: “He changed the way so many of us see shows.”
Ben Bradshaw, UK Culture Secretary: “Alexander McQueen made an outstanding contribution to British fashion. His extraordinary talent and creativity mean that his designs are adored not just by followers of haute couture but lovers of great style everywhere. This is a great loss to one of Britain’s most successful industries and to the design world more widely.”
Is it just me, or do these read more like statements about a major fashion company going out of business than about the death of a person?
To learn anything about McQueen as a person you have to go to Wikipedia. For the record, McQueen is survived by his father; three sisters; Janet McQueen, Tracey Chapman and Jacqui McQueen; and brothers Tony and Michael McQueen. His mother passed away at the beginning of the month. Many sources are suggesting his suicide comes as a result of the grief he experienced at her passing.
(Pic from BBC.co.uk)