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.

When she accepted the 2009 Video Music Award as Best New Artist for “Poker Face”, Lady Gaga wore a phantasmagoric dress from Alexander McQueen’s Fall 1998 collection.

McQueen’s publicist has called Gaga “an unofficial muse,” which might explain how so many of McQueen’s fashions found their way into her video for “Bad Romance.” So that’s where those bejeweled armadillo heels and sequined bubble skirt came from!

McQueen gathered inspiration for what would be his final season from the angels of Sandro Botticelli and the demons of Hieronymus Bosch—which explains the gold finery, fish-tail skirt, and spines running along his model’s head. Some might even call those demonic touches “Burton-esque.”

Low-rise jeans seem hardly revolutionary now, but when McQueen first unveiled his trademark “Bumsters” in his 1996 ‘Dante’ show, fashionistas were positively scandalized by their defiantly-low, pube and crack-revealing waistlines.

His signature low-rise pant established a sexy trend that carries on to this day. A friend of McQueen said, “It wasn’t about it being frivolous, it was about being different.”

McQueen’s “Manta” dresses (presented in his 2010 Spring/Summer collection) became hugely popular among actors such as Naomi Campbell, Selma Hayek, and Kate Moss, and high-society embellishing red carpets worldwide. Inspired by a scuba diving trip he took in the Maldives, his “digitally-enhanced, mirror-image-style prints, resemble giant manta rays, sea-serpents and other strange or imagined denizens of the deep.” He had a fascination with Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as psychology which played into his bizarre and brilliant designs.