British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, whose creations adorned such celebrities as Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna and Lady Gaga and was known for his flamboyant and sometimes outrageous styles, has been found dead in his London apartment, an apparent suicide. He was 40 years old.
His company's communications director, Samantha Garrett, said that McQueen’s body was found Thursday morning, days after he posted anguished online remarks about the death of his mother.
“We don’t have any information in terms of circumstances,” she told The Associated Press.
In a statement about the incident, Scotland Yard said, “We were called to an address at 10:20 a.m. this morning by the ambulance service after reports of a man found dead ... next of kin have been informed. The death is being treated as non-suspicious.”
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Additional details surrounding McQueen’s death have not yet been released, but the UK Daily Mail is reporting that he hanged himself.
A master of his craft
Known for his dramatic statement pieces and impeccable tailoring, McQueen received recognition from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003, when she made him a Commander of the British Empire for his fashion leadership.
"McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers. His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs," said Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue. "At one level he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashions shows that mixed design, technology and performance, and on another he was a modern-day genius whose gothic aesthetic was adopted by women the world over."
Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour called McQueen "one of the greatest talents of his generation."
"He brought a uniquely British sense of daring and aesthetic fearlessness to the global stage of fashion. In such a short career, Alexander McQueen's influence was astonishing — from street style, to music culture and the world's museums," she said in a statement. "His passing marks an insurmountable loss."
Mother's recent death
McQueen's mother died Feb. 2. Some fashion experts speculated that his mood may have also been clouded by pressure to top himself again next month at his catwalk show in Paris.
McQueen sounded anguished and frustrated in recent postings on his Twitter page. The remarks also sounded slightly confused.
"i'm letting my followers know the my mother passed away yesterday if it she had not me nor would you RIP mumx," he wrote.
Shortly afterward, he added: "But life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
On Sunday, he used an obscenity to describe his "awful week" and said he had to "some how pull myself together and finish."
Four days later, he was dead.
McQueen received his training at the Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design, long recognized for its fashion-forward approach and encouragement of young designers. He worked for traditional Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard and also Gieves and Hawkes before branching out into his own more theatrical designs.
Slideshow: Alexander McQueen’s wild style (on this page) He became chief designer at the renowned Givenchy house in 1996 and moved to Gucci as creative director in 2001.
McQueen’s runway shows — often more like performance pieces because they were so dramatic and, sometimes, bizarre — were always a highlight during the Paris ready-to-wear fashion week.
One of his collections included a show built around the concept of recycling, with models donning extravagance headwear made out of trash. His last collection, shown in October in Paris, featured extravagant and highly structured cocktail dresses.
He took risks in his work, and had a reputation for stirring controversy with shock tactics, earning him the title “l’enfant terrible” of the fashion world. But it was his talent that made him a star.
A star favorite
The iconic designer was a favorite of fashion-forward celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
“I am shocked and overcome with grief upon learning about the untimely death of the quiet genius Alexander McQueen,” actress Parker said in a statement. “God speed Lee. It has been a privilege for all of us to know you. You will be indescribably missed.”
McQueen was one of the youngest designers to become British Designer of the Year, a title that he won four times between 1996 and 2003. He was also named the International Designer of the Year in 2003 at the Council of Fashion Designer Awards.
By 2007, McQueen had his own boutiques in New York, London, Los Angeles, Milan and Las Vegas.
His work was widely praised in New York City on Thursday by fashion writers leaving the BCBG show, the opener at New York Fashion Week at Bryant Park.
Hal Rubenstein, a fashion director for InStyle magazine, said McQueen started out tough and angry — in his work and attitude — but softened over time as he felt more appreciated by the industry. McQueen, he said, was a master of integration of technology into fashion.
"He changed the way so many of us see shows," Rubenstein said.
Cindy Weber Cleary, another of the magazine's fashion directors, said of McQueen: "He was a huge talent, a master of tailoring and always willing to push the envelope. He was forward thinking."
Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, said: "Everyone in this tent is shocked ... He was obviously incredibly talented and had a creative energy. There was a real sense of energy in everything he did."
Leive said McQueen was "always extreme" in his collections.
McQueen died days before London Fashion Week, although he was not scheduled to show in the British capital. His death came just three years after the death of Isabella Blow, the woman who discovered him.
Blow, an English magazine editor and fashion director, bought McQueen’s entire line for his graduate show. She committed suicide in May 2007 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
This story contains information from The Associated Press.
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