Alexander McQueen’s work is a permanent dialogue that brings together opposing forces, such as tradition and the avant-garde. The social inconformity that was a hallmark of his generation is strongly represented in a body of work both conceptual and performative. McQueen began his career in the haberdashery workshop of Anderson & Sheppard Ltd., where he mastered the discipline of men’s tailoring. His later stint at the haute couture house of Givenchy allowed him to shape a dialectic between the production of exquisitely crafted pieces and the culture of the 1990s. This experience broadened his material language, which adopted resources such as fluidity in fabrics, in contrast with the rigidity that had formerly characterized his style.
Controversy dogged him throughout his career: he even identified himself with the image of a tramp wielding a needle. His collections were characterized by their exploration of femininity, without limiting its expression to that of a symbol of beauty and sensuality. McQueen used the female form to communicate themes such as cultural subjection, human aggression against nature, and the thin line between the private and the public. An example is his notorious 1995 collection entitled Highland Rape, which offered an historical denunciation of colonial violence through the image of the female body violated and covered in tatters.
His exploration of new techniques in the production of material led to the creation of specialized workshop to develop software for printing on textiles. The kaleidoscope of images meticulously printed on his pieces was in itself an achievement in innovative software engineering.
McQueen’s work came to be closely associated with his personality. Romantic and provocative, he was an amalgam of forces that catalyzed his own creative powers. His ready laughter was a reflection of his celebration of life. As his career progressed, however, he began to project emotions that came from no happy place, the reflection of a paranoia that would pursue him to the end.