Dead Presidents: Alexander McQueen
From reptiles to ancient mythology , Alexander McQueen’s ability to take inspiration and transform it into magnificently tailored clothing each season had astounded the world. His abundance in knowledge, willingness to take risks and acute sense for detail helped him create clothing that is actually wearable off the runway but can as well be considered avant garde. A balance that so many designers fail to achieve today.
Within the St. Paul’s Church in West London, his last recorded resting place, we sit with a man that can best be described as one of fashion’s greatest. Surrounded by a series of 5 feet tall stained glass windows depicting various tales of the Virgin Mary, we find our surroundings somewhat suiting for an interview with such a monumental man.
J Lubala: The intricacy of your work, not just on a surface level but in terms of the depth of research put in as well truly shows in your collections. The deep analysis of your various inspirations brings forth breathtaking results, almost flawless in appeal. What are your thoughts on perfection, are you a perfectionist yourself?
AQ: No. Of course I make mistakes. I’m human. If I didn’t make mistakes, I’d never learn. You can only go forward by making mistakes.
J Lubala: What does the world need to understand about McQueen’s psychology, especially in regards to the amount of time that it takes to create your individual pieces all the way from the designing to the manufacturing process?
AQ: Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. As a designer, you’ve always got to push yourself forward; you’ve always got to keep up with the trends or make your own trends. That’s what I do. Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution.
J Lubala: Some of the world’s artists have repeatedly referenced your work and reputation in their lyrics, from the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z and ASAP Rocky. Despite your glorification from these individuals, more specifically, hip hop artists, what’s your honest view on the art form in it’s entirety?
AQ: Rap music’s been around for too long now to be inspirational. The words are, but the music isn’t.
J Lubala: What character criteria needs to be met for a public figure or figurine to have a hand in anything ‘Alexander McQueen’?
AQ: I work with people I admire and respect. It’s never because of who they are. I can’t get sucked into that celebrity thing because I think it’s just crass.
J Lubala: Your work ethic is unprecedented , it’s almost alarming to be honest. Is this the prime example of true passion for the craft or simply working hard to meet high demand?
AQ: I am married to work. As a designer, you’ve always got to push yourself forward; you’ve always got to keep up with the trends or make your own trends. I can design a collection in a day and I always do, cause I’ve always got a load of Italians on my back, moaning that it’s late.
It’s not long before McQueen and I lose hold of the Q & A format that was initially employed. Eventually, we’re having vigorously loud conversation about his admiration for women in a work sense particularly, despite designing for both males and females.
J Lubala: Why design for both men and women if you’re regularly regarded as an empowering figure in support of women – your use of female amputee and plus sized models. Could one assume that you creating for men as well highlights that you’re business conscious?
AQ: I’m mad in the front of my mind, but business-minded in the back. I like the concept of dressing people. I used to not care whether people bought the clothes or not, but I kind of like it now. I wouldn’t label that commercialism; it’s more like I do this work because I want people to wear it. When a woman gets dressed up to go out at night, she wants to give 50% away, and hold the rest back. If you’re an open book, there’s no allure. I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress and I’m not big on women looking naive.
J Lubala: Expression through fashion, carrying a message that speaks out against a predominantly sexist society.
AQ: Really, what I’m aiming for is world domination!
Creatively directing his brand to the forefront of fashion, selling the majority of his company (51%) to the Gucci Group in the year 2000 at just thirty years of age, and falling into a pit of depression, drugs and ultimately suicide – Mr McQueen lived a life worthy of theatre and deafening praise. Alexander, you are sorely missed.
Written and edited by Teddy Masopha and Jonathan Lubala