The boy destined for a future in high fashion came from a very modest background. His father was a cabbie and Lee McQueen grew up in council house in East London.
By the time he was sixteen, McQueen had decided to devote himself entirely to fashion. He dropped out of school and took an apprenticeship at the Savile Row tailors Anderson and Shepherd. This experience gave him the opportunity to sharpen his technical skills and tailoring, for which he later became famous.
He progressed to Gieves and Hawkes and then to costumiers Angels and Bermans. The variety of his apprenticeships gave him the opportunity to master many different tailoring techniques.
From tailoring on Savile Row, McQueen made the transition to working alongside Koji Tatsuno and at the age of 21 he moved to Milan to work with Romeo Gigli. McQueen completed masters degree in fashion design at the prestigious Central St. Martins College, where he had originally just hoped to be a pattern cutter. His collection, the culmination of his apprenticeships, received keen media attention and firmly established him as a promising young fashion designer.
He then set about making a name for himself. His shows were remarkably theatrical and his brutally sharp style brought him much attention and acclaim.
He also crafted a reputation. McQueen, by virtue of a petulant bad boy image and frequent outbursts, became ‘L’Enfant Terrible’. Attitude in tow, McQueen and his new self-titled label were taking over fashionable London.
He won the British Designer of the Year Award in 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003. In 1997, he was employed by couture house Givenchy and promptly, and impudently, dismissed the label’s founder, Hubert de Givenchy, as ‘irrelevant’. Subsequently, his first Givenchy line bombed.
McQueen, however, was still respected in the fashion world and was allowed a second chance, a great mark of respect in a notoriously unforgiving industry. In 2000, Gucci purchased a controlling interest in the McQueen line. This move ended McQueen’s tumultuous relationship with Givenchy and gave him a greater creative license.
In 2003, McQueen was presented with the International Award by The Council of Fashion Designers of America and also received a CBE. By 2007, he had opened boutiques in cities across the world, including in Las Vegas, New York and Milan. And A list celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman were wearing his creations on red carpets from LA to London.
It was announced on 11 February 2010 that McQueen had been found dead at his Mayfair home. The news came just days after the death of his beloved mother, Joyce.
Lee McQueen will be remembered for introducing us to the “bumster”, for his fabulous tailoring, outrageous style and enormous talent. He is much mourned by the fashion community