What do Jack the Ripper, antlers and padded shoulders have in common?
They are all things that showed up in “fashion world’s darling,” Alexander McQueen’s collections during his life. He is remembered today for the outrageous outfits he created in the 1990s and 2000s. But fashion author, journalist and historian Judith Watt wrote a biography on him that focused on both his fashion and his life.
Alexander McQueen: The Life and Legacy is a book that attempts to paint a more complete picture of the designer. In many ways it succeeds. The reader learns about McQueen’s early years in a working-class family in London. He was the only boy in a class of forty girls at a synchronized swimming class who read fashion books at age 12. Learning about McQueen’s self-described awareness of being the “pink sheep” in his family set the stage nicely for fashion to come – antlers included.
From his MA fashion course to his early shows to his eventual work with Givenchy, no chapter of McQueen’s life feels rushed. Watt includes quotes from many people who knew him well, showing insiders’ perspectives on his ascent in the fashion world. Watt also doesn’t shy away from the negative points in his life, from accusations of misogyny in his shows to his cocaine abuse. After all, this is a biography and not a love letter.
Something that adds extra value is that there are many pictures throughout the book of his early drawings, examples of pieces from his collections and a few pictures of the man behind it all. Though it would have been ideal to see more pictures of McQueen, it was somewhat fitting that those photos were limited. McQueen was known for living a private life despite his very public fashion. In many ways, fashion was his life.