Alexander McQueen was born on March 17th 1969 in London, Englan as the youngest of six children. He left school at the age of 16 and was immediately offered an apprenticeship at the traditional Saville Row tailors Anderson and Shephard and then at neighbouring Gieves and Hawkes, both masters in the technical construction of clothing. From there he moved to the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans where he mastered six methods of pattern cutting from the melodramatic 16th Century to the brutally sharp tailoring which has become a McQueen signature.
Aged 20 he was employed by the designer Koji Tatsuno who also had his roots in British tailoring. A year later McQueen travelled to Milan where he was gainfully employed as Romeo Gigli's design assistant.
In 1993 McQueen took his M.A. in Fashion Design from Central St. Martins College, London. His studies were financed by his aunt Renie Holland.
McQueen changed his first name from Lee to his second name Alexander, because he felt it sounded better for a couturier.
From the Spring of 1994 McQueen has managed to produce a collection every season, even though he had no money. His mother Joyce recalls that he borrowed money from her to buy materials for making up his designs. She would sit up all night stringing beads and dyeing materials. He dressed his models in dishevelled hair and tattered lace for his 1995/6 collection "Highland Rape". 1996 saw the introduction of the infamous "Bumsters" low-waisted trousers, which his mother really disliked because of the bottom cleavage.
Alexander McQueen said "The clothes I design are strong - they are meant to build confidence".
In 1996 he was picked by the manufacturer Onward Kashyiama, which has backed his business financially ever since and licensed his name in Japan.
McQueen has invested the money in a house in Islington, London. The jeweled manacles held models like exotic slaves in his Spring/Summer 1997 collection "Bellmer la Poupee".
In 1997 Bernard Arnault who owns Dior, Givenchy and Lacroix, approached Alexander McQueen with a proposal that McQueen should take over Givenchy since John Galliano, was taking over Dior. Initially McQueen refused. Bernard Arnault, who is very passionate about fashion, tried his best to convince McQueen to accept. Eventually he did agree to take over Givenchy from Spring/Summer 1997. His monetary package was reported at 2 million pounds.
Since leaving St. Martins and in less than 10 years McQueen has become one of the most famous and respected international fashion designers in the world. He was named British designer of the Year four times in 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003.
In October 1996 he was appointed Chief Designer at the French Haute Couture House Givenchy where he worked until March 2001.
At the end of 1999, Alexander McQueen opened his first store in London, at Conduit Street, near the Japanese designers. In the year 2000, Alexander McQueen suddenly left Givenchy. He is continuing to design clothes under his own label. His replacement at Givenchy is British designer Julien MacDonald.
Alexander McQueen opened his first American showroom in New York in September 2002.
In June 2003 he was awarded international Designer of the Year by The Council of Fashion Designer's of America (CFDA) and in the same month honoured with 'A Most Excellent Commander of The British Empire' (CBE) by her Majesty the Queen. Alexander was also awarded British Menswear Designer of the Year in 2004.
In February 2004, Alexander was offered YSL Rive Gauche after Tom Ford leaves, but he has declined the job as he wants to concentrate on his own label. To celebrate five years of the American Express Centurion Card, Alexander McQueen put on a "Black" Fashion show at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in Central London on June 3rd, 2004.
Alexander McQueen's collections are known for both the emotional power and raw energy of his shows as well as the romantic but determinedly contemporary nature of this clothes. It is typical of McQueen to use the juxtaposition between contrasting elements; fragility and strength, tradition and modernity and fluidity and severity. An openly emotional and even passionate viewpoint is realised with a profound respect and influence for the arts and crafts tradition. Alexander McQueen's collections combine an in-depth working knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, the fine workmanship of the French Haute Couture atelier and the impeccable finish of Italian manufacturing. Alexander McQueen's collections for Givenchy have included golden eagles embroidered by Lesage, rose petals pressed into sheer organdie, pure gold material woven for a bolero jacket, feathers painstakingly layered like a bird's wing onto a catsuit and other unique weird styles. But he has not forgotten that he must play the Givenchy game, if he is to succeed. He has managed to continue to design in his funky, youthful modern manner at his own house of McQueen while also producting the elegant, expensive, beautiful creations at Givenchy. This takes a real effort, but so far he is succeeding. He will probably get better as he gains more experience even though these two houses are so different.
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