Long Live McQueen: Who Will Milk Alexander’s Fashion Label?

Last week we saw the final portrait of the late fashion visionary Alexander McQueen’s. It’s been barely two months since his suicide, but already the House of McQueen has released new designs and announced their decision to continue his brand. But what living person could hope to match the late “hooligan of English fashions” work? After all, he famously covered Lady Gaga crown-to-toe in red lace and threw spectacular runway galas featuring shipwrecks, games of human chess, and holograms of Kate Moss.

Gucci Group, the majority stakeholder of the fashion house Alexander McQueen, announced in February that despite the suicide of creative director and founder, Lee Alexander McQueen, the fashion house he created would continue to operate, and would show its fall collection only weeks later during Paris Fashion Week. The event was thoroughly un-McQueen.

It took place in a gilded Parisian salon and lacked the usual extravagance and imagination he infused into his shows. In years past, he dazzled onlookers with million dollar displays of light, sound, and couture. His 2010 Spring/Summer show exhibited life-sized robot cameras capturing every angle of couture as it passed up and down the runway, and then broadcasted those images over the internet to the remote corners of the world. Who can forget the 2005 Spring/Summer show where models displayed McQueen’s talent on a human-scale chess board?

In stark contrast, the 2010 Paris Fashion Week show was small, displaying only sixteen final pieces demurely presented with McQueen’s signature play on light and sound both noticeably absent.

Nevertheless, the pieces themselves, McQueen’s final works, measured entirely up to the McQueen name. Each piece had been designed and largely overseen by McQueen before his untimely death according to his design assistant Sarah Burton. The couture and the foreseeable future of Alexander McQueen fashion house now rests in the hands of Ms. Burton, McQueen’s “right hand” for the past 16 years.

In a 2006 interview, when asked if he would let someone carry on the McQueen brand if he weren’t actively involved, the designer responded, “I don’t think so, I mean, because that person would have to come up with concepts for my show and my shows are so personal, how can that be? …Unless it turns into a runway of non-existence-ness and who’s going to come and see that?”

But a girl’s allowed to change her mind and so was a McQueen. In a more recent interview, he said, “I want this to be a company that lives way beyond me, and I believe that customers are more important to making that happen than press. When I’m dead, hopefully this house will still be going. On a spaceship. Hopping up and down above the earth.”

Will the decision to continue the name and legacy of McQueen truly maintain the vision of a fashion rebel or will the fashion house become an echo of its former glory without its founder at the helm?

Consider this: In 1994 Gucci Group hired a young and talented man by the name of Tom Ford to take the creative reigns of house Gucci. Within five years of that decision Ford had taken Gucci from bankruptcy to $4.3 billion in value—a feat that Ford repeated again when Gucci Group acquired Yves Saint Laurant in 1999. Another brilliant designer, Karl Lagerfeld, took control of such houses as Chanel and Fendi throughout his illustrious career. The point is a label lives on; the inspiration may not be from the original founder, but the fashion world suffers no shortage of visionary minds to fill in the void.

Will the world see another Lee Alexander McQueen? Perhaps not. But it is full of designers who were inspired by him. And while he’s certainly irreplaceable, there’s room enough for The House of McQueen to take on new blood and new life? At least, the Gucci Group certainly hopes so.

McQueen’s influence seeped into Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and some of the clothes even the layman wears. See what we mean in the image gallery in the following pages.

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  • Erasmus van Rotterdam

    Who cares?…I buy my clothes from The Gap, J Crew and American Eagle Outfitters

  • Thunderpuss

    @Erasmus van Rotterdam: No one’s perfect, darling.

    As for me, I’ve always appreciated McQueen’s accessibility. He worked hard to ensure that access to his fashion wasn’t restricted to the obscure runway shows in Paris or Milan. Even now you can simply go to his website and see pretty much every show in men’s wear and women’s for the past decade. Thought it’s becoming more common practice these days there was a time when displaying your work over the internet was absolutely unheard of.

  • Xtian99

    Dear Erasmus van Rotterdam,

    —perhaps that’s why your just another sad, uninspired and generic clone that no one cares about really, where as this was a creative, inspired visionary and artist that people were interested in and whose work touched many.

    if your not bright or deep or empathetic enough to get it, at least have the decency to web surf off the page onto something else without leaving nasty comments that belie your banal-ness … perhaps those played out cargo shorts are FINALLY on sale at Amercian Eagle! LUCKY DAY!!!!!!!!

  • Corey

    @Erasmus van Rotterdam

    Your life sounds horrible.

    Love live McQueen!

  • jason

    I’ve never liked the fashion industry. It’s a form of appearance fascism. We in the gay community need to be harsh on it even if it means criticizing the many gay men who work in it. Just because you’re gay, it doesn’t mean you can’t be criticized.

    Think about it. It’s an industry which pressures women to conform to an appearance ideal that complies with male heterosexual fantasy. Oh, and give me your two thousand dollars for that pair of shoes along the way, thanks.

    Is this something we should be allowing? I think not. Criticize them, guys.

  • Erasmus van Rotterdam

    I am sure all the fashion queens of Queerty shop at Chanel, Lanvin, Vivienne Westwood, Carolina Herrera and all the haute couture designers of Paris…LOL

  • Thunderpuss

    @jason: Well stated. I can’t say that I’ve never liked the fashion industry. In truth, I love fashion: I love clothes and shoes and fussy undergarments. I do agree that fashion as an industry could use more criticism not only for the image distortion of women but also of men. My biggest criticism for men’s fashion is that it so freaking stagnant…I digress…

    To play devil’s advocate let me pose a few questions:
    1.) Is the fashion industry completely to blame for these images of skinny, hot, sexy people selling their wares? Refer to “Morning Goods” on your favorite Gay Blogsite and note the number of views compared to ANY other articles.

    2.) If you made widgets, and people REALLY wanted your widgets so much so that demand worldwide for Jason’s Widgets was astronomical, would you not consider raising your prices just a little? Simple laws of economics say yes, you would.

    I think fashion (at times) represents the worst in humankind: greed, lust, hatred. The fact that the industry capitalizes on that is just…good business.

  • Daniel

    @jason: You raise a really excellent point about how the fashion industry promotes “body facism” that cause widespread body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I was surprised to learn was McQueen was also one of the first designers to use Indian models in the UK. The first?!!! This is the 21st century and no one did that before now? Sad.

    However, not to throw the baby out with the bath water, what is so inspiring to me about McQueen’s story (and this article) is that it’s about creative expression that defies expectation and redefines what “fashion” and “art” can be. McQueen was also notorious for his use of models with larger builds and other “unconventional body types.” Hopefully those who continue his work will recognize the need to clothe and promote more realistic body types instead of the heroin chic that continues to dominate the runway.

  • Ben

    @Corey: YOUR life sounds horrible.

    Anyone outside the fashion industry who derives meaning in their life from the brand or designer of the clothes they wear really needs to rethink their priorities.

    I wear clothes that A) Don’t break the bank B) Function in sometimes adverse conditions and C) Make me look good/appropriate. I create my identity and meaning in life through my work, my friends, my family, and other things which actually matter, and clothing is not one of those things.

  • Sulli

    McQueen elevated fashion to a new art form and truly made us think outside the box. If nothing else, we should recognize the undeniable talent of McQueen and his amazing work. As for Gap boy, if you don’t care about art, culture and new ideas, then who cares for your opinion on them?

    Excellent article and we’ll keep watching to see if this fashion house rises or falls.

  • Ella Aarhus

    Super cool. This articles were awesome.

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