Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson
|Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An immaculately-researched look at the all-too-short life of Lee Alexander McQueen whose genius rested in the way that he could cut fabric to achieve an exquisite tailored look.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: February 2015|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
On the face of it Lee McQueen might not have seemed like the ideal candidate for greatness in the world of haute couture. He was the youngest son of an East London taxi driver, but there was history in the rag trade within the family, although his father told him that if he wanted to sell clothes he should get a market stall. Determined to do it his way, Lee borrowed the money from a relative to enable him to attend Central St Martins after doing a tailoring apprenticeship. The name 'Lee' might confuse you, but at the time McQueen began his own business he was claiming benefits and decided to use his middle name to avoid detection.
For a time it was a struggle to make ends meet but the breakthrough came when he was appointed as head of Givenchy to succeed John Galliano (also a Central St Martins graduate) and then went on to partner with Gucci to develop his own business when he felt that Givenchy was constraining his creativity. The stress of constantly having to create new shows and collections wore him down and his drug use became excessive. Openly gay, he was unable to sustain a relationship for any length of time, as he had a controlling nature although he was attracted to men who reacted against being controlled, but it's difficult to be certain what exactly caused him to commit suicide in February 2010, on the day before his mother's funeral. But on reflection it did seem that he'd been saying farewell to those around him for quite some time.
It's said that you should never meet your heroes and even meeting Alexander McQueen through the medium of a book was ... sobering. I'll never be in the market for designer clothes, but I've always been impressed by McQueen's ability to cut a pattern and create perfect tailoring - which is far more difficult than it might appear. That he'd achieved prominence through his own efforts added to the appeal. Many of the people who knew him well (mostly women, it has to be said) spoke highly and affectionately of him, but it contrasted starkly with the way in which he treated others around him and particularly his sexual partners. It seems that if you had anything to do with McQueen you would love or hate him but you could never be ambivalent.
Andrew Wilson has written a very balanced biography, to the point where I couldn't work out whether or not he personally liked McQueen. I had no feeling of affection from Wilson for McQueen or his achievements: occasionally it did feel to be almost a cold statement of facts with all emotion removed. The research has been immaculate and the book will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the fashion industry: there's a feel for how it really works and it's far from pleasant. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
Lesley Mason had some regrets about meeting one of her heroes, Douglas Adams, in book form when she read The Frood by Jem Roberts. We can also offer you some fiction about the world of haute couture in Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani and Cut on the Bias by Stephanie Tillotson .
You can read more book reviews or buy Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.