CRAIG MCDEAN, SEPTEMBER 2008
Controversial and widely acclaimed British designer Alexander McQueen was found dead in his London apartment this morning of an apparent suicide. He was 40 years old. Over the course of his two-decade career, McQueen thwarted convention, producing stunningly elaborate–and frequently shocking–runway shows and lines of clothing that almost always managed to live up to the hype surrounding their creator. In the April 1997 issue of Interview–in the aftermath of his poorly received first collection for Givenchy–McQueen spoke to Karl Plewka about his unique vision.
KARL PLEWKA: You often leave people stunned. To me, that's one of your big strengths.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: For people who know McQueen, there is always an underlying message. It's usually only the intellectual ones who understand what's going on in what I do.
PLEWKA: All of the plumages you used [for Givenchy] made me think of couture as an endangered species. Because it has often been so irrelevant and elitist of late, couture's role has been slipping away in modern culture, but it's alive as a subject again.
MCQUEEN: I'm here for a modern customer. People like Courtney Love or the type of person who wants something crazy–you know, fun stuff. It's only fashion; my God!
PLEWKA: Exactly. I have often felt that couture has been executed in a very heavy-handed way–all those over-the-top displays of workmanship and jewels can look vulgar.
MCQUEEN: Some couture collections have everything including the kitchen sink! Everything gets thrown on to make it look expensive. I find it grotesque when clothes hit you in the face and there's no room for fault. But I don't expect to turn things around all by myself. I'm not a saint.
PLEWKA: Thank goodness. So how did you feel after giving all this creativity to the fashion world?
MCQUEEN: You mean how did I feel, after all that, to get the mixed reviews?
MCQUEEN: Well, I think sometimes I might scare the editors, because they might feel they're getting old and they're not understanding it. The problem lies on their side of the fence, not mine. I come from a different era and I design clothes for our era. I think of people I want to dress when I design. Of course I make mistakes. I'm human. If I didn't make mistakes, I'd never learn. You can only go forward by making mistakes. I'm twenty-seven, not fifty-seven. I'm not Givenchy, I'm Alexander McQueen.