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The hooligan of English fashion

Beauty standards and trends differ from culture to culture, so something that’s fashionable and pretty to one woman can be bizarre, even ugly, to another half the world away. Beauty is a complex thing that can’t be defined by rules.

However, it has to be within the parameters that society dictates in order to be recognized and accepted by this group of people. The only one Japanese beauty trend everyone knows for sure is "kawaii-ness” - an attempt to look cute at any age from a little girl to an older lady.

As a fashion fan, I always look for drama and extravagance and I believe there is beauty aside from being cute or natural. An essential task for fashion is to shock and surprise audiences by using new technology and innovation.

Here is a story of a man who added a sense of fantasy and rebellion to fashion.

He believed women don’t need to be delicate and dainty, they can be dread and high-spirited. Women aren’t supposed to please men, they are free to express themselves and be what they want to be.

Lee Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010) burst onto the fashion stage in 1992, courting controversy as headlines hailed him the hooligan of English fashion. Though contentious and frequently misunderstood, he established the fashion label that is now internationally acclaimed and coveted.

From the start of his career McQueen has both shocked and delighted his audience with raw presentations often depicting bleak history and anarchic politics. These shock tactics began in dimly-lit warehouses away from the staid environment of the London Fashion Week.

McQueen had built a shield around himself. Andrew Wilson’s biography, ‘Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin’, written with the co-operation of the McQueen family, reveals that he was raped as a child by his brother-in-law. The trauma haunted several of his early collections, which featured models smeared with blood, or criss-crossed with tyre prints.

His weird and whimsical catwalk narratives have included models encircled in flames, drenched in rainstorms or spun like music-box dolls on revolving circles in the floor. The shows are inspired by cult films by Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfred Hitchock, or by the dark photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin.

It was Witkin’s work which inspired McQueen’s to one of his show. Models staggered around, trapped in a mirrored box that obscured their view of the audience. Their bandaged heads and confused expressions evoked disease both physical and psychological. The spectacle ended as the walls of the glass box shattered to the floor to reveal an obese model wearing nothing but a gas mask, surrounded by hundreds of moths.

Another of his collection, La Poupee, featured a black model whose movements were restrained by a metal cage attached to her limbs, hit the headlines. Inspired by the German puppet-master Hans Bellmer, the rusty contraption was designed to evoke a marionette; inevitably, again, some of the press saw bondage, slavery and the subordination of women.

None of these sensational spectacles has eclipsed the substance of McQueen’s design. McQueen’s flair for showmanship has led him to be celebrated as much for outrageous theatricality as for the unique combination of aggressive tailoring and lyrical romanticism in his clothes.

McQueen's "bumsters" spawned a trend in low-rise jeans; their cut just above the pubic bone to reveal the cleft of the buttocks behind – made their first appearance. The brutally sharp styling of his collections could not obscure their sublime craftsmanship, historical cut and exquisite detailing. Impeccably tailored suits are softened with fine lace, while skin-tight leather is unashamedly sexual and subversive. McQueen also became known for using skulls in his designs. A scarf bearing the motif became a celebrity must-have and was copied around the world.

Lee McQueen was a genius. His achievements in fashion earned him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, four British Designer of the Year awards, as well as the CFDA's International Designer of the Year award. McQueen died by suicide in 2010, shortly after the death of his mother. He died at the age of 40. He had left an unfinished collection full of religious icons and macabre feathers: he had designed his own requiem.

If you would like to know more about Alexander McQueen, I recommend you watch a movie "McQueen and I" which you can find on YouTube easily.


Ekaterina Belousova





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