The Heart Commands: Remembering Lee McQueen

A Commander of the British Empire.

Commander of a fashion empire.

Commander of our hearts.

Alexander McQueen in Purple Magazine on
Lee McQueen, photographed in 2010 for Purple Magazine.

Lee Alexander McQueen was one of the best things to happen to fashion, as we now know it. As we have historically, known it.

Genius is a slight word, failing feebly to describe him. Giant, too, seems to contradict his gentle soul. Icon is, at best, a trivial word in a fickle world, especially a fashion-obsessed one.

We have gone from bon mots to benign musings – in 140 characters or less, please.

I, too, am a guilty accomplice of this, the digitally disenfranchised generation of all ages.

At a time when language has become littered with superlatives and acronym(ed) adjectives (why bother with three words when you can say it in three letters?), there are no words – or frankly, acronyms, that can aptly describe him or the creations he gave to us.

The value debate of what is deemed art in this age we live in, rages on.

Attention seems to be the highest of currencies, so let us speak of it, instead.

This quiet lad from East London took his creations – his heart, really – and put them on a stage over 15 years ago. And not so quietly, he got our attention.

With bumsters. With oyster shells. With metal shards.

They revealed more than bare bottoms, uncovered life buried deep within, pierced and poked at emotions stirring within us all.

But this was fashion – for commerce. Wasn’t it? Wasn’t it supposed to be?

This was a shallow business.

This was not for the faint of heart.

Or for the feign of art.

His was a story we listened to, intently, curled up and snug in our beds, flipping glossy page after glossy page, or eagerly perched in our front-row seats, or amongst friends in front of a screen.

We were all taken by the characters within that story – whether that we represented student, seasoned sartorialist, or cynic.

We hung upon every word, every drape, every stitch, every paint drip.

Each of us were rooting for the protagonist to prevail, in this unsocial world of media and mode.

But alas, he didn’t survive it.

The attention was too much.

Or, perhaps, it wasn’t enough.

File photo shows McQueen walking on the catwalk at the end of his 2004-2005 Autumn/Winter ready-to-wear fashion collection in Paris
McQueen bared his soul on that runway. There is no one else like him. Full stop.

Lee McQueen, you are dearly missed.

Not for your clothes. Not for what you contributed to the global economy. But for what you gave to each of us – your attention – and your spirit.

Read Part 2: McQueen Moments, Remembered.

Images have been modified by yours truly. Original photos are from and Philippe Wojazer for Reuters, respectively.

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