Farewell, Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen at the opening of his first boutique in London in 1999.

Alexander McQueen at the opening of his first boutique in London in 1999. Photo by Tim Jenkins.

The Eccentricities of a Couturier:
The son of a London cabbie became a designer phenom before taking his own life. A look back at his life and legacy.

The first time I met Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide Thursday in London at the age of 40, he was sitting at his desk at Givenchy, days before his debut show for the legendary French couture house. He was 27 years old, having made a name for himself in a few short years after his graduation from Central Saint Martins in London by staging outlandish shows filled with really smart clothes. I was about to interview him for a cover story for NEWSWEEK, and minutes before the shoot, he decided to jazz things up a bit and shaved himself a mohawk. There were bits of hair all over the white Formica desk where the ever-elegant Hubert de Givenchy himself used to work.

“Nice, eh?” McQueen said with a laugh, rolling his spooky ice-blue eyes. “I love to do things spontaneously.” He spoke frighteningly fast, readily admitting he knew next to nothing about the house that had dressed Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jackie Kennedy. For him, Givenchy was “quite twee—that’s what we say in England for something you don’t really notice, that remains in the background,” he told me. “I knew Givenchy existed, but it wasn’t any great shakes in relation to the 1990s.” He looked around the studio. “It’s going to be a tornado here now—me, my mohawk, and I.