Lee Alexander McQueen was more than a fashion designer. He was an artist who used the human body and fabrics as his canvas and treated fashion shows as theatrical performances. As head designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, he brought fantasy, abnormality, romance and darkness to the fashion world. Now, after his death on Feb. 11, the question is, what will happen to his brand? Can anyone take over and do what he did, or should his line be put to rest with memories of its greatness being the only remains?
To understand this question, it’s important to know what McQueen did for the world of fashion and imaginations. The Alexander McQueen brand is responsible for Lady Gaga’s shoes in the “Bad Romance” video; for a line of clothing at Target and a line of Puma sneakers; for fashion shows with wolves, fire, robots and ice rinks; for making “bumsters” and initiating the low-rise pants movement in the ‘90s; and for causing controversy with stunts like his 1995 collection dedicated to the highland rapes by showing bruised and bloody models. McQueen was the Tim Burton of the fashion industry – one of a kind – making him hard to replace and hard to live without.
“There is something sinister, something quite biographical about what I do – but that part is for me. It’s my personal business,” McQueen said in an interview with Sarah Mower. “I think there is a lot of romance, melancholy. There’s a sadness to it, but there’s a romance in sadness. I suppose I am a very melancholy person.”
With the amount of his personality that he puts in his clothes, and their mentioned biographical aspect, I don’t think the brand should move forward. But continuing design and production without the chief designer has been done over and over and has led to great things.
Gabriel “Coco” Chanel, former chief designer of Chanel, died in 1971. Although her fashion house didn’t make great strides for the following 20 years, it came back with the hiring of Karl Lagerfeld in 1981. Lagerfeld has kept the brand fashion-savvy while not straying far from Coco’s original look.
When Christian Dior passed in 1957, his house considered shutting down, but because it was a large revenue-maker for France many people wouldn’t let this happen. Yves Saint Laurent was the original replacement for Dior and to this day the label is still wonderful and growing.
One of the most recent losses for the fashion industry was Yves Saint Laurent in 2008. Previous to his death, the couture house YSL had been shut down, but the brand still continues through Gucci Group.
With all these success stories, maybe McQueen’s brand will live on and a designer will step up and continue making his magic.
International-renowned fashion photographer Scott Schuman, also known for his blog, the Sartorialist, wrote about McQueen the day after his death posing a similar question. Having received 205 comments at press time, it’s obvious that fashionistas everywhere have an opinion.
No matter what happens, McQueen has made his mark, and it will never go away.