Alexander McQueen: Quotes on Past, Present, Future

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Aymeline wears lace dress and head mask Joan A/W98
Aymeline wears lace dress and head mask Joan A/W98 courtesy of the Alexander McQueen ArchiveAnOther Magazine S/S15, Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Katy England

As the Alexander McQueen retrospective prepares to open next week, we look at what we have learnt about the genius designer

On March 15, the Victoria & Albert museum will open the doors of Savage Beauty: the first ever retrospective of Alexander McQueen, the legendary fashion designer whose creative vision has established an enduring and indelible legacy. A man whose self-defined "strong, dark, poetic, structured, theatrical" aesthetic is renowned not only for his conceptual and controversial themes but for their manifestations into elegant and considered collections, his role in fashion cannot be overstated. We look back over past issues of AnOther and Dazed & Confused to see what the archives can teach us about one of Britain's greatest talents, the "working class kid from a family of taxi drivers" and "yob amongst snobs," a visionary who changed the future of fashion forever.


“Some designers are so airy-fairy people can’t connect with them. I hope people can relate to me, to a normal person who just happens to be a fashion designer, that people can take me as they find me. It’s not the designer’s job to care about what people think. Whatever else I’ve done, I’ve never tried to be something that I’m not.”
Lee Alexander McQueen, quoted by Suzannah Frankel, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"I am constantly trying to reflect the way women are treated. It’s hard to interpret that in clothes or in a show but there’s always an underlying, sinister side to women’s sexuality in my work because of the way I have seen women treated in my life. Where I come from, a woman met a man, had babies, moved to Dagenham, two up two down, made the dinner, went to bed. That was my image of women and I didn’t want that. I wanted to get that out of my head.”
Lee Alexander McQueen, quoted by Suzannah Frankel, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"We bought fabric from Berwick Street market and Brick Lane... I’d go and see Lee and he would be there at the sewing machine eating crisps. I remember having to feed him a bit, bring him a sandwich. We just worked with what we could find, what we could throw together. It was like, we’ve got enough to make a little top now, so Lee would make a little top or, we’ve got enough to make a bumster skirt."
Katy England, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"London was so boring then. But with McQueen you were part of something new, something very exciting. Here was this guy who not only showed clothes but put emotion onto the catwalk, whose own soul had been shaken by life and who knew how to shake people up because of that. The models wore black contact lenses and the way they walked, the tartan, the military influences. It was like, oh my god, really? A fashion show can be this way?"
Sebastian Pons, AnOther Magazine S/S15

“Lee is quite a closed shop. He’s a private person and there are only very few people he’s prepared to listen to and trust. Yes, he does isolate himself, he does cut himself off. It’s a huge pressure when you’re constantly having to meet new people, go for dinners, be interviewed, have your photograph taken. You’re putting yourself on the line, you’re having to expose your personal details and I don’t think he wants to do that any more. Why should he? Of course, there is a dark side. But there is also a truly romantic side. Lee’s such a romantic character and he has these dreams. It’s all about looking for love, isn’t it? It’s him looking for love and his ideal of love and romance, well, it’s way above and beyond reality. I don’t know how you ever find that." 
Katy England, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"You could have been the best fashion photographer in the world but unless he connected with you he wasn’t interested. Lee had no inhibitions around what was appropriate or inappropriate. If you’re middle class you’re brought up to be careful about what you say but that didn’t matter to him at all. He’d say the most outrageous things and because of who he was and how powerful he had become people had to listen to him.”  
Janet Fischgrund, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"Having money hasn’t changed me. If anything it’s made my life worse. People come up to you who knew you before you were famous and who didn’t come up to you before. I’m a clever designer. I can do what the client wants. But I’m prepared to forget about money if it affects my creativity because, remember, I started off with nothing. And I can do that again.”
Lee Alexander McQueen, quoted by Suzannah Frankel, AnOther Magazine S/S15

"If people are going to invest in fashion now... then they need to know it's worth it. They’re not going to want to buy a cashmere coat they can wear any season, they are looking for something more individual than that, and from a more individual designer. Fashion is about fantasy as well as being commercial. We don’t all want to dress like soldiers in the same uniform. There is a viewpoint that people should play safe because they can’t afford to frighten their customer but, in fact, the opposite is true. You have to push forward and realise the power of fantasy and escapism. What’s the point of doing this job if you’re going to stagnate?"
Lee Alexander McQueen, AnOther Magazine S/S09

"In fact, McQueen was not obviously very fashionable at all: that was one of the most endearing things about him. Instead, he was enthusiastic to the point of naivety and also, despite any preconceptions, instantly and engagingly open and warm, more interested in introducing me to Minter, the first of his three dogs, rescued from Battersea Dogs Home only weeks earlier, than discussing his work."
Suzannah Frankel, AnOther Magazine S/S15

“He wasn’t like a designer as I imagined, kind of a well-dressed, organized person. He was always in a t-shirt and jeans, just like a really normal lad from the East End. The difference was, he was gay, he always used to say that, always made a lot of jokes about that.”
Sebastian Pons, AnOther Magazine, S/S15


"With McQueen you have so much at your fingertips. That is what’s so incredible about this place. Lee built an amazing house, an English house – and that is very important – where creativity rules, where you can do whatever you want to do for the shows because no one’s saying: where’s your basic dress, where’s your three button jacket?"
Sarah Burton, AnOther Magazine, S/S12

"The McQueen woman doesn’t want to feel casual. It’s not that kind of world. When you put on the clothes, they make you stand differently, feel differently. It was about how to do that but make it feel light. I’ve always been part of Lee’s romantic side, that’s what I love."
Sarah Burton, AnOther Magazine, S/S12


"I think maybe that as time goes by there will be more newness but because I was part of what it was before it’s not like coming into a house and saying it’s all about me. I don’t feel like that. It really is all about McQueen and the things that he was trying to say and about moving that forward, making it relevant, making it desirable, making it into what people want to wear." Sarah Burton, AnOther Magazine, S/S12

"Lee was very much his own person so it’s impossible to know quite what he would have thought but part of the reason for me staying is that I believe he always wanted this to be a house that would be here forever, that he never wanted his name not to mean anything any more. And I want that too. I want Alexander McQueen to continue. Then, in a hundred years time, there will still be this house that he created, this great place that represents modernity and creativity and beauty and romance and all of those things. That, I think, would be amazing." 
Sarah Burton, AnOther Magazine, S/S12

"Lee often said that you had to learn the rules to break them. In designing and creating garments, you need to learn and research on construction and techniques before you can produce something truly modern, contemporary and innovative. Knowing the past is probably key to building the present and future."
Sarah Burton, Dazed & Confused Magazine, November 2013

"Because I’ve always worked here, there will always be a part of his process that’s in me and I was part of his process."
Sarah Burton, AnOther Magazine, S/S12