As the Bryant Park tents opened this morning for the first shows of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, it soon became clear—thanks to the abundance of smartphones and laptops—that the day would be remembered as one of the darkest in the history of fashion. The death of Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide at the age of 40 in his London home, comes as a shock to the global fashion community and robs it of a leading designer in the prime of his career. Our own brief meeting with McQueen in 2002 left us stunned that someone best known as a hot-tempered iconoclast was so friendly, modest, and easygoing.
A 1992 graduate of Central Saint Martins who was discovered by the late Isabella Blow, McQueen combined aggressive eccentricity with masterful cutting skills honed on Savile Row. He translated his diverse inspirations, which ranged from carousel horses to religious persecution, into looks that were in turn sharply tailored and frothy, displayed for maximum impact against elaborate and otherworldly runway sets. One memorable show (for spring 2004) set models whirling in a Depression-era dance marathon inspired by the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. More recently, for fall 2009, he set an eco-friendly example by constructing a runway backdrop that was a towering junk heap of charred props from past shows. Recent projects included collaborations with Puma and Target, as well as creating a media sensation with the surreal heels he showed for spring 2010. McQueen, whose brand is owned by Gucci Group, was scheduled to debut his fall 2010 collection on March 9 at La Conciergerie in Paris.