Today is the day I realized that Lee Alexander McQueen is truly gone. I fooled myself into thinking otherwise because I still see collections under his name walking the runways at fashion week and imagined him as a phantom of sorts turning the spinning wheel and sewing together clothing from an otherworldly location. Then I saw the images of his exhibit at the Met and the truth was forced upon me. I’m not entirely sure why I feel so affected because I never knew Alexander McQueen, the same way I don’t know and have utterly no contact with any high-end designer, but I feel more drawn to him than other celebrities.
As the son of an English cab driver in Lewishman and the youngest of six, McQueen was always a dreamer. His earliest memory, according to Mail Online, was when “he drew a picture of a dress on the wall of his family’s council house in the East End of London” at 3-years-old. From there it’s history, as the saying goes, and his work has entered the archives of fashion fame.
Something incredible happens when you watch or look at stills, like I did today, of his runway shows. You’re not actually watching a fashion show, you’re watching something else entirely. With his men’s lines, he begins with the initial image of a man, walking. As the show progresses so do his garments, going from day to night, casual to formal. But then a transformation occurs and the man is no longer there and a creature from a fantastical world has taken his place.
I imagine McQueen himself has seen this world he depicts with his clothing. Art, in itself, is escapist and it allowed him to escape into a world all his own, though perhaps he was too far removed from reality. We only saw glimpses of what he saw, but his experiences remain private, even now in his grave. It is this escapism that draws me to fashion. I dress as a means of pretending. I dress to transform myself into somebody that perhaps I’m not, but who I want to be at times.
Did McQueen “pretend” as I do now? Do you think that, like most people, reality became too much for him at times and he escaped into his art? I like to think he did, but then I wonder if it’s possible to escape too far, to wander too deep into this fantasy world and I wonder if I would ever be able to come back out if I did. I like to think that Alexander McQueen is in his world now, the world that he created, that we glimpsed at on the runway and I hope he’s as happy now as he made us.
Here’s my tribute: