The cover of the Metropolitan Museum publication Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
This morning I remembered that the extraordinary fashion designer Alexander McQueen died five years ago this month. When I looked it up, I saw that his funeral was exactly five years ago today, February 25, 2010 (he died on February 11), at St. Paul’s Church in London.
I do editorial work for Vanity Fair (including the occasional music piece for its website), which over the course of several years ran major articles on the lives—ending in suicide in both cases—of McQueen and his close friend and fellow Brit Isabella Blow, a fashion icon in her own right. Reading these, I became fascinated by this scintillating but troubled pair. (I was helped along by my cubicle mate’s print of the David LaChapelle photo, called “Burning Down the House,” that accompanied one of the Vanity Fair articles.) Isabella, who was married to Detmar Blow, one of those British aristocrats who seem to be wealthy and poor at the same time, had a rather amorphous role in the fashion world. Though she had a couple of “regular” jobs at magazines, she was known more for her flamboyant style and for discovering Philip Treacy, he of the wildly imaginative, sometimes towering hats, and McQueen himself—she bought out his entire first collection. Sadly, when McQueen’s success did not translate into the same for Blow, she became bitter and their relationship suffered.
In 2011, I attended (along with hordes of others) the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit “Savage Beauty,” a stunning display of McQueen’s genius. What he did went well beyond clothing, upending ideas about what fashion shows should be and exploring disturbing themes. I took a lot of notes (a horned coat! Kate Moss as hologram!) and eventually wrote my song “Alexander/Isabella,” which Vanity Fair linked to in a slide show about the two friends. The maverick designer and the iconoclastic muse continue to inspire.