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Lee Alexander McQueen,(17 March 1969 – 11 February 2010) was a British fashion designer and couturier best known for his in-depth knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, his tendency to juxtapose strength with fragility in his collections, as well as the emotional power and raw energy of his provocative fashion shows. He is also known for having worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own label under the name Alexander McQueen. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the CFDA's International Designer of the Year award in 2003.
McQueen was openly gay and said he realized his sexual orientation when very young. He told his family when he was 18 and, after a rocky period, they accepted his sexuality. He described coming out at a young age by saying, "I was sure of myself and my sexuality and I've got nothing to hide. I went straight from my mother's womb onto the gay parade".
In the summer of 2000, McQueen had a marriage ceremony with his partner George Forsyth, a documentary filmmaker, on a yacht in Ibiza. The marriage was not official, as same-sex marriage in Spain was not legal then. The relationship ended a year later and McQueen and Forsyth maintained a close friendship.
McQueen received press attention after the May 2007 suicide of international style icon Isabella Blow. Rumours were published that there was a rift between McQueen and Blow at the time of her death, focusing on McQueen's under-appreciation of Blow. In response to these rumours, McQueen told an interviewer:
“It's so much bollocks. These people just don't know what they're talking about. They don't know me. They don't know my relationship with Isabella. It's complete bullshit. People can talk; you can ask her sisters ... That part of the industry, they should stay away from my life, or mine and Isabella's life. What I had with Isabella was completely dissociated from fashion, beyond fashion. ”
McQueen was an accomplished scuba diver and used his passion as a source of inspiration in his designs, including spring 2010's "Plato's Atlantis." Much of his diving was done around the Maldives.
While on Savile Row, McQueen's clients included Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles. At the age of 20 he spent a period of time working for Koji Tatsuno before travelling to Milan, Italy and working for Romeo Gigli.
McQueen returned to London in 1994 and applied to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, to work as a pattern cutter tutor. Because of the strength of his portfolio he was persuaded by the Head of the Masters course to enroll in the course as a student. He received his masters degree in fashion design and his graduation collection was bought in its entirety by influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow, who was said to have persuaded McQueen to become known as Alexander (his middle name) when he subsequently launched his fashion career.
Icelandic singer Björk sought McQueen's work for the cover of her album Homogenic in 1997. McQueen also directed the music video for her song "Alarm Call" from the same album.
McQueen's early runway collections developed his reputation for controversy and shock tactics (earning the title "l'enfant terrible" and "the hooligan of English fashion"), with trousers aptly named "bumsters" and a collection entitled "Highland Rape". In 2004, journalist Caroline Evans also wrote of McQueen's "theatrical staging of cruelty," in 032c magazine, referring to his dark and tortured renderings of Scottish History. McQueen was known for his lavish, unconventional runway shows: a recreation of a shipwreck for his spring 2003 collection; spring 2005's human chess game; and his fall 2006 show "Widows of Culloden," which featured a life-sized hologram of supermodel Kate Moss dressed in yards of rippling fabric.
McQueen's "bumsters" spawned a trend in low rise jeans; on their debut they attracted many comments and debate. Michael Oliveira-Salac, the director of Blow PR and a friend of McQueen's said that "The bumster for me is what defined McQueen." McQueen also became known for using skulls in his designs. A scarf bearing the motif became a celebrity must-have and was copied around the world.
McQueen has been credited with bringing drama and extravagance to the catwalk. He used new technology and innovation to add a different twist to his shows and often shocked and surprised audiences. The silhouettes that he created have been credited for adding a sense of fantasy and rebellion to fashion. McQueen became one of the first designers to use Indian models in London.
McQueen also designed a range of dresses under the name of "manta", priced at around £2800. The line, named after the manta ray, was inspired by a holiday McQueen took in the Maldives in 2009. The designs have been worn by various models and celebrities, including Lily Cole.