The youngest of six children, Lee McQueen was born in the heart of the East End of London in 1970, changing his name to Alexander on launching his fashion career. Describing himself as the "pink sheep of the family", he was sent to an all-boys school, where he spent most of the time drawing women's clothes.
Although he wanted to go to art school, he signed up for an apprenticeship at Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard where, legend has it, he wrote obscenities in the lining of a jacket destined for the Prince of Wales. After stints working for a theatrical tailor, Japanese designer Koji Tatsuno and Romeo Gigli in Milan, McQueen returned to London. He was turned down for a teaching job at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, but was offered a place on the postgraduate course instead. His 1993 degree show was seen by fashion visionary Isabella Blow, who bought up his entire collection and became his patron.
Alexander McQueen's career
Soon after setting up his own label, McQueen's designs were being hailed as the best thing to hit the London fashion industry. With his "bumster" trousers (think hipsters but with an even lower waistband) and a collection entitled Highland Rape, the fashion world went mad for its latest enfant terrible, and McQueen was named British Designer of the Year in 1996.
In November of that year, McQueen signed with luxury goods conglomerate LVMH to head the Givenchy design team. But he was not given enough control over his designs and the relationship between him and LVMH soured. In March of the following year, Givenchy announced that Welsh knitwear wizard Julien Macdonald would be taking over the reins once McQueen's contract ran out in October 2001.
Alexander married his partner, film-maker George Forsyth, in the summer of 2000 in Ibiza on a yacht owned by the Prince of Gambia - a friend of the couple's bridesmaid, Kate Moss. He would have even more to celebrate three years later - by which point he was well into the swing of his role as creative director at Gucci. He picked up the International Designer of the Year prize by The Council of Fashion Designers of America that year and was honoured with a CBE by the late Queen.
After launching two successful perfumes, 'Kingdom' and 'My Queen,' he ventured into the sports industry, collaborating with international brand Puma to release his own line of trainers in 2005. Two years later he made his mark in the makeup industry too, creating his own Cleopatra-themed collection of eyeshadows, lipsticks, lipglosses and powder with cosmetics giant MAC.
All these extra projects did nothing to diminish his enthusiasm for his primary sartorial passion, though. By 2008 the Londoner had vastly expanded his empire, opening boutiques across the globe in fashion capitals New York, London and Milan as well as in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The fashion world went in mourning on February 11, 2010, with the sad news that the designer had taken his own life.
Following his death, Sarah Burton stepped up as the brand's creative director. The house's designs have been championed by royalty and celebrities alike, most notably Catherine, Princess of Wales.