• William Hu

Alexander McQueen: The Dark Life Behind The Luxury Label

Before Alexander McQueen’s iconic oversized sneakers, founder Lee Alexander McQueen was one of the fashion industry’s biggest disruptors. His often avant-garde nature and perhaps even outlandish designs rippled the fashion runway shows in the late 90s and early 2000s, striking the hearts of many avid fans. Yet, despite the seemingly glamorous appearance, McQueen’s history and childhood was filled with abuse and torment.

McQueen’s sister, Janet, is 15 years older than him. In the later years of McQueen’s life, it was revealed that Janet's first husband, Terence Hulyer, sexually abused him at the age of eight. Despite such an important aspect of McQueen’s history, his family never knew until four years before his death. Janet explained in an interview with Times2 that “I think in a way Lee looked up to me as the eldest, even though obviously I came across as weak because of what happened, but what Lee suffered it was just such a shock… It still is. How did I miss something like that? The day I was told I was shell-shocked” (Vogue). 

Image: Alexander Mcqueen

At the start of his career, McQueen’s mentor, Isabella Blow, inspired many of his designs. Sadly, shortly before his own passing, Blow took her life in her own hands. Coupled with concealed childhood trauma, McQueen took his life in 2010. 

However, his sufferings led to his legacy today, shaping his designs and perspective on fashion. McQueen explained how “When you’re 8 years old, seeing your sister strangled by her husband... all you want to do is make women look stronger.” His interests in horror films added to his pool of inspiration, evident with many of his grotesque runway names such as “Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims” and “Nihilism.” Nonetheless, his ideologies render as beautiful metaphors. He utilized dark stories to express his inner thoughts and create armor for women from the real world. He was able to rid his demons through fashion and help others. He gained a massive following.

Image: Runway Look from his Fall/Winter 2012 Collection

At the age of 27, he was bestowed “Designer of the Year” at the British Fashion Award and worked as chief designer for haute-couture label Givenchy in 1996-2001. McQueen left behind a legacy, one defined by pure ambitions and a drive to inspire others. Yet, he too suffered, living a life under the shadow of his past.

Please reach out if you or someone you know suffers as McQueen did. 

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