BY WANA UDOBANG Once upon a time glamazons ruled the catwalk, with their Miami Vice style blazers and stomach length jeans. Runways in London New York, Paris and Milan were clad in solid blocks of pastel colours along with shoulder pads and elaborate buttons. Just as fashion was about to experience a black hole, then came a young man. His name, Lee Alexander McQueen. Unbeknown to fashion, he would revolutionise its world in all its grandeur and entirety. McQueen brought something dynamic to the fashion world stage. His shows were theatrical, they were grand, they were a circus, some might even go as far as saying it was a freak show. Essentially in the world of clothing design, McQueen gave the world something to talk about. He became the zeitgeist in the fashion game. Always daring to be different. He created the “Bumsters”, which ultimately spun the trend for the low rise jeans. He also birthed the scarf engraved with the motif of skulls draped on most celebrities and replicated across the globe. In his 1998 Autumn show, he featured double amputee model Aimee Mullens striding down the catwalk on intricately carved wooden legs. With an innately rebellious streak, he was never shy of controversy. Although he didn’t come from a typical fashion pedigree, his accent to the fashion Oligarch is something that can be attributed to his taste for design, shock factor and sometimes the macabre. McQueen’s clothes have an air of craft and architecture to it, because somewhere along his career, his designs had surpassed pattern cutting and tailoring to become clothing architecture. His works have been more fascinating than Haute Couture. His days as an apprentice on Saville Row always came in handy as it could be traced in his impeccably tailored jackets. His sense of the ghoulish never went without a stare. One could see it in the celebrities attracted to his pieces of fashion iconography. Icelandic princess Bjork, Lady Gaga and Rhianna are just a few of his patrons. While Alexander McQueen was becoming the renaissance man for the Avant Garde , subliminally he was reconstructing fashion’s design history. He was doing what Film Noir had done to the world of cinema. Fashion wasn’t just frivolous anymore. It wasn’t just hemming together yarns of fabric or looking pretty in an outfit. This Scottish taxi drivers son had made clothing become art. Like Warhole and Damian Hirst he was crowd the l’enfant terrible(terrible child) of the fashion world.
McQueen’s clothes were sometimes unwearable and at other times difficult to adapt for high street fashion. He had also been criticised for going overboard. Despite all the criticism, he never compromised his fashion principles. Alexander McQueen was a working class boy who grew up on a council estate in London’s east end. After leaving school with one O Level in art, he served his apprenticeship in London’s tailoring Mecca, Saville Row. He would later apply to the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design for the role of a pattern cutter tutor. But due to his very strong working portfolio, he was persuaded to enrol as a student and McQueen later graduated with a Masters in fashion design. McQueen served as head designer to Givenchy for five years before starting his own clothing line. Even he once admitted he had to tone down his love for the dramatic whilst working for Givenchy. He won the coveted award for British designer of the year four times and eventually awarded a CBE by the queen Whilst Donna Karen was going through a spirituality overhaul and presenting boring pieces of loincloth on the runway (a total disappointment of course),Jean-Paul Gaultier had lost his sense of the bizarre(the cone bra worn by Madonna became his last memorable piece). But McQueen always kept in line with his vision of drama and extravagance. The McQueen woman was strong; she was a rebel, unafraid, and never shy of making a strong statement. That was Alex’s girl. That was the McQueen aesthetic On the 11th of February 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen was found dead in his home just nine days after his own mother’s death and a couple of days to London fashion week. A British tabloid paper reported that his body was found hanged. . As we mourn the loss this fashion demagogue, we ask who can take his place. Even Vivian Westwood had abdicated the throne as the queen of rebellious youth and teenage angst fashion, who could rule the runways again? Is fashion about to experience another black hole? As the saying goes, “the world is a stage, we all have our entrances and our exits” McQueen left a bit early, but he waltzed of the runway with a standing ovation.
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