John Renaud on Alexander McQueen

Our dear friend and fashion designer John Renaud wrote this upon of hearing news of Alexander McQueen‘s passing earlier this morning…

When I heard the news this morning of the death of Alexander McQueen I was in shock. I could not believe what I was reading.  I’m used to the deaths of celebrities and people I had admired but this felt like I was being told a close family member  had died. Someone you know, and expect to always be there. It hurt. I felt sick, and the room started to spin a little. The inevitable “why?” came over my mind. I felt angry and sad and alone. But, I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.

To thousands of the world’s designers, Alexander McQueen was more than just another label hanging on the racks at Neiman’s. He was our leader. He was, in essence, the guy every designer wanted to be. His unprecedented talent, creativity, and execution left other designers shaking in their boots. His innovative approach to fashion design put him on the map, mixing classic tailoring with modern concepts and dark undertones. His execution was always flawless and he did things with materials that most thought would be impossible. He didn’t just push the limits of fashion, he pushed them right through the window.

Every one of his shows was as meaningful and important as any artist hanging in the Met, MOMA, or the Louvre. His ventures into robotics, holograms, video, and giant chessboards were as creative as his clothes. The designer’s ability to merge fashion and technology was inconceivable. He always did it first, and he always did it the best. There was no denying that. His showmanship was the most original of any fashion designer ever. He aimed for the stars and he brought down the galaxy. Every time.

Mcqueen’s clothing was the most original and inspiring work of any designer in the last two hundred years. McQueen, in the midst of 90’s minimalism, brought to the fashion world a mix of extreme futuristic concepts, Edwardian tailoring, classic sensibility, and a blatant sexual charge that only he could do right. When you look at the McQueen archives, you couldn’t date the stuff he did twenty years ago from the stuff he showed last fall: McQueen was timeless, in everything he did.  He balanced every one of his collections so that every woman could be a McQueen girl. He is the only designer I have ever seen that had such a universal appeal to so many different body types and ages. The legendary Isabella Blow, Beth Ditto, and Lady Gaga were all frequent clients of McQueen. This diversity of appeal is what made a McQueen collection so brilliant to look at. There was the body conscious, the relaxed, the sleek, the messy, the sexy, the flamboyant and the tailored all mixed together to create a collection that spoke to everyone who watched. And it was always so powerful. His messages never were subtle, never simple, but you always understood what he was saying with his clothing.

He was quoted as saying, “… I believe in that one-on-one sell. I don’t really believe in flooding the market with loads of goods that don’t mean much, and (you) lose your identity.” McQueen’s words speak to his honesty, his integrity, and his vision, all of which he was successful in building his empire on.  He proved that fashion could be sellable and unique.

Most of all I will miss him because, like many designers, he made me want to get into fashion. As a kid in West Texas I remember going through Wand British Vogue magazine at the local Barnes and Noble studying every one of his pieces that made it into the photo shoots.  He understood a woman’s body so well. He did it so successfully and always in a unique and new way. I knew what I wanted to do, because of McQueen. For me, I feel like I have just lost my teacher.  I feel like I have just lost the man who showed me my path in life and what I needed to do. I never met McQueen, and I am absolutely positive he had no idea who I am, but Alexander McQueen meant so much more to me than I can put in words.

To be honest, I don’t care to know how he did it, why he did it, or anything else about his death. Right now, it’s just too much to try and comprehend. McQueen was a genius and I know his passion will live on somehow.  I prefer, instead to think of the image of him taking his bow at his remarkable Spring 2010 show. He walks out among the giant video screen, lifts one arm sluggishly and waves to the crowd. People scream and cheer as he does a quick polite bow (more of a nod really). He turns to his right and makes a slight awkward smirk and then scuffles offstage behind the long line of models, out of site of the crowd. Into darkness he goes, one last time.

Mcqueen, thank you. Thank you for everything you gave this world, the industry, and me.

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4 Responses to John Renaud on Alexander McQueen

  1. JR is so well-written. I just can’t believe it happened still.

    Long Live McQueen.

  2. Angelica says:

    Wow this is exactly how I was feeling. He was a creative genius and the world of fashion will never have another Alexander McQueen. Great post.

  3. beautiful tribute. thank you for posting this. i’m quite sad that we’ve lost someone so brilliant and creatively gifted, way too soon. the work he did was incredibly fresh and inspiring and unique. such a tragedy.

  4. Julia Woodward says:

    John, dear, you write so beautifully. Too often we lose the brilliant, really talented artists of this world and are left with the hacks, the “copiers” who settle for cheapness. No one REALLY knows why a person kills him/herself. We cannot get inside that person’s mind and understand the immense suffering that drives him to destroy the life God gave him. Ironic, isn’t it, that his great friend Isabel Blow, the fantastic hat designer and fashion inspiration, also took her life a couple of years ago. Remember the article I mailed you about her? Now we need you to take his place, though you may be too humble at the moment to think you can do it. But I have always had faith in you. That’s the best tribute you can pay him.

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