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Flying Too Close To The Sun

“L'Enfant Terrible,” known as Lee among his close friends and as Alexander McQueen by the rest of the world. A sensitive visionary who rediscovered fashion in more than one aspect and described his works as a biography of himself and, to borrow his own words, was a “romantic schizophrenic.” He also said, “My collections have always been autobiographical; there’s a lot about me coming to terms with my own sexuality and who I am. These collections are like exorcisms. They’re about my childhood, the way I think about life and the way I was raised to think about life.” Born as the youngest kid to a working class family in East London and educated at a mediocre level, this “anti-intellectual” had this innate talent to provoke and manipulate emotions. On February 11, 2010, one day before his mother’s funeral, Alexander McQueen committed suicide at his house in Mayfair.

A Personal Story

The biography titled Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin, written by Andrew Wilson and published in 2015, mentions how the genius used his gothic imagination with roots in the impoverished neighbourhoods of London in turning himself into a fashion superstar, with interviews with his close friends and family. The heart-breaking traces of his darkness can be found in the stories of sexual abuse and violence, committed by his older sister’s husband, which he occasionally talked about to his friends but never in detail. This is why he reflected his sister as defenceless yet strong, an archetypal woman struggling to survive. Into this woman, which he wanted to protect and made stronger by clothing her in the garments and armours he made, he may have transferred these feelings with a sense of belated revenge or guilt. “I know about misogyny, I once saw a woman who was beaten to death by her husband. I hate fragility and representing women as naive. I want people to fear the women I dress.” Having become an angry, damaged, distrustful, and unhappy man as a result of this long and hidden-between-the-lines abuse, McQueen left the word, where he fought to enter and to succeed, through self-destruction. The fact his works were influenced by such a personal story and the possibility that he could actually end his anger have always been reflected in his artistic perfection; however, the seemingly unsolvable problem in his life became more complicated. Despite being diagnosed with depression, which fell on the last years of his life like a grim shadow, he was an energetic hedonist. Between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and bad, he always looked for perfection - a place, an idea, a man, a dress, or a drug that could change his own reality…

Looking For Perfection

In a documentary about McQueen in 2011, fashion critic Godfrey Deeny remembers how he once told the designer how “his collection wasn’t the best.” McQueen responded by crying. When an interviewer from the Dazed magazine made the comment “You cannot please everybody anymore,” he said, “Except me.” Of course, he wasn’t the only one who felt the pressure of being perfect. In his first interview after leaving his post at Dior (to him, the first sober one), John Galliano said to Vanity Fair, “ I was going to end up in a mental asylum or six feet under.” Later on, during his interview with American TV host Charlie Rose, he explained what drove him to the edge. “I was afraid to say no. Because I thought it showed weakness. And with more and more success, I would just say yes. And keep on taking more work on, which took its toll.” Galliano was responsible for creating 32 collections per year for Dior and his own brand; he managed everything from bags and jewellery to perfume and child wear. He said that alcohol and drugs, which he used to “silence the voices in his mind,” made him “emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally bankrupt.” In the same interview, when asked about how he felt about the death of McQueen, his response was full of empathy: “I understood. That loneliness, that pain… As addicts, we’re searching for perfection. We’re setting the bar impossibly high. We don’t understand why we do it, and people say, ‘Wow! How are you going to top that?’ and we say, ‘Well, we’re going o don’t worry. That’s what makes us wake up in the morning.’” McQueen never felt the need to hide his insatiable desire for cocaine but it wouldn’t be right to call him a ‘drug addict.’ The thing to which he was really addicted was the charm of fantasy - the hope that, one day, he could be saved from his body, memories, regrets, and past. When he was a kid, it was his favourite thing to watch the birds flying above the roofs of the blocks in East London. Birds were always in and out of his brief life on earth. Besides, that’s how his close friends described him, nervous and timid like a wild bird. That’s why nobody was surprised to see a coat dipped in gold feathers, drawing inspiration from Icarus, in his collection Angels and Demons. Icarus died because he flew too close to the sun, but McQueen was closer.


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