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Designer Alexander McQueen found dead at 40

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 4:48 p.m. CST

LONDON — Brilliant and controversialBritish fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead in his London home Thursday after anguished Internet postings that revealed his deep sorrow at the death of his mother. He was 40 years old.

The circumstances pointed to a possible suicide, but there was no official confirmation from police or McQueen's publicists. Police said the death was not suspicious, apparently ruling out foul play, and did not give any immediate indication of how the death was discovered.

The Sun tabloid cited an anonymous source on its Web site Thursday who said an ambulance was called at 10 a.m., and workers found McQueen hanging in his apartment. The newspaper gave no further details.

McQueen's sudden death robbed the fashion scene of one of its most innovative and successful young designers. His clothes were sexy and distinctive, dramatic and different, perfect for red-carpet presentations and late night rock gatherings.

He made his name first in London, then wooed audiences in Paris, New York and Milan to take his place in the upper echelons of the design world.

Yet recently posted comments on his Twitter page showed that McQueen was distraught over the Feb. 2 death of his mother. He said he wanted his mother to rest in peace "but life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Using an obscenity, he added that he had had an "awful week" and said he had to "some how pull myself together and finish."

Little was immediately known about the circumstances surrounding his death, which came as the fashion elite were gathered in New York for a series of catwalk shows.

A presentation of McQueen's secondary label, McQ, had been scheduled for Thursday's opening day of New York Fashion Week. McQueen had never been expected at the show, which was quickly canceled.

Acclaim and honors came pouring for the talented, bearded man favored by celebrities like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell and named British Fashion Designer of the Year four times.

McQueen was also responsible for designing the infamous costume that came apart during Janet Jackson's Super Bowl appearance in one of history's most noted "wardrobe malfunctions."

Despite the accolades, McQueen clung tenaciously to his privacy, turning down most interview requests and shying away from the post-show limelight other designers craved. He was the youngest of six children born to a taxi driver and a teacher, his representatives in New York said.

Known for his dramatic statement pieces and impeccable tailoring, he helped raise the profile of British fashion and was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 when she made him a Commander of the British Empire for his fashion leadership.

His pieces were coveted and treasured by stylish women across the globe.

"McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers. His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs," said Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue.

Hal Rubenstein, a fashion director for InStyle magazine said McQueen started out tough and angry — in his work and attitude — but softened over time as he felt more appreciated by the industry.

McQueen, he said, was a master of integration of technology into fashion.

"He changed the way so many of us see shows," Rubenstein said.

Vivienne Westwood, perhaps Britain's most revered designer, said she was "incredibly sorry" to hear of McQueen's death.

The designer received his early fashion training at the Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, long recognized for its fashion-forward approach and encouragement of Britain's talented young designers.

He learned the finer points of traditional men's tailoring at two famous, conservative Savile Row houses: Anderson and Sheppard, as well as Gieves and Hawkes.

"He was 16 when he came here," said John Hitchcock of Anderson and Sheppard. "He was a boy from Essex; he wanted to learn tailoring. He was a little bit different — he was very ambitious."

He said McQueen's success had inspired the next generation of designers.

After his Savile Row stint, McQueen started to develop his trademark, more theatrical designs, working with several other brands before first starting his own label in 1992.

He quickly earned a reputation for innovation that lasted until his death. His last name soon entered the fashion lexicon and became synonymous with new and cutting edge.

The company he founded was purchased by the Gucci Group, and he retained creative control of his own brand.

His runway shows — more often like performance pieces because they were so dramatic, and sometimes, bizarre — were always a highlight during the Paris ready-to-wear fashion week.

One of his previous collections included a show built around the concept of recycling, with models donning extravagant headwear made out of trash. His last collection, shown in October in Paris, featured elaborate and highly structured cocktail dresses. Critics raved.

His edgy creations have been seen on numerous red carpets, worn by A-list actresses, such as Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz.

Lady Gaga recently made waves when she wore McQueen's spring 2010 lobster-claw shoes in her "Bad Romance" music video.

McQueen's death came days before London Fashion Week, an event McQueen had skipped in recent years.


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