British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen, the original creative engine behind the Alexander McQueen label, was beloved for his expert tailoring and theatrical runway shows. After his suicide in 2010, fans left tributes to the man and his talents outside Alexander McQueen boutiques worldwide. Record-breaking crowds visited the posthumous retrospective of the designer’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Victoria and Albert in London.
McQueen’s inspirations came from many quarters — film, music, current events, history, his heritage and fashions of the past. His runway presentations were not just displays of clothing but were personal expressions of the zeitgeist, often touching on our cultural anxieties and concerns. McQueen’s own thoughts and feelings about love, death, gender, genocide, colonialism, global warming and the extinction of species all appear in his pieces.
“What you see in the work is the person himself. And my heart is in my work,” McQueen told Harper’s Bazaar in 2007. It is perhaps this heart, and the heart’s exposure, that drew the crowds and made McQueen creations both popular and emotionally resonant. Because the work was personal and thus layered with feeling, the motifs — decorative embellishments and fabric choices — have meaning. In other words, in McQueen’s oeuvre, plaid is more than simply a pattern.