London Fashion Week opened February 19 with a minute’s silence for Alexander McQueen, as it mourned one of Britain’s most daring and innovative designers who hanged himself earlier this month.
The 40-year-old’s death on February 11 was met with shock and disbelief around the world, and no more so than in London where McQueen grew up, trained – and where he inspired a generation of new designers.
British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman says McQueen had an immeasurable impact on the fashion industry.
“I ask you to join me in sharing both respect and reverence for the passing of one of our greatest British designers, Lee McQueen,” he said, using his first name as his friends knew him.
“His impact on London and the international fashion industry has been extraordinary. He will be sorely missed.”
Mr Tillman called for a minute’s silence for McQueen, who he said had made his way up from humble beginnings in London’s East End to creating a global brand under his own name through “determination, hard work and genius”.
A BFC spokeswoman says organisers have planned low-key tributes to McQueen this week.
“It’s all going to be very subdued, he’s not even buried yet. Everyone is still feeling very raw.”
A wall for visitors to leave notes to McQueen was set up in the 18th century Somerset House where the main shows are held, and was quickly filled with heartfelt messages that will be put in a book at the end for the family.
“You have taken my heart with you,” wrote one; others described him as “a massive loss” and “a constant inspiration” and another said: “Dear Lee. So sorry Time’s winged chariot whisked you away – far too early!”
McQueen was one of Britain’s most successful and unique fashion exports, shocking Paris as chief designer at Givenchy but winning hoards of fans with his outlandish but always beautifully tailored clothes at his eponymous label.
BIG NAMES SHOW WARES
Any resentment at his refusal to return to show in London – even years after Vivienne Westwood brought her Red Label here and after Matthew Williamson, Burberry and Pringle all came back last year – has been forgotten.
The big names have stuck around this season, to the delight of the organisers who hailed September’s event as one of the best ever.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah, a champion of British fashion who was at Friday’s opening, expressed “admiration and awe” for the designers here and said they made London “the most innovative capital in the world”.
The capital has made its name both as a breeding ground for talented young designers such as Christopher Kane, Erdem and Marios Schwab, as well as the bastion of long-established names such as Paul Smith and Betty Jackson.
The autumn/winter 2010 collections kicked off as usual with Paul Costelloe, the veteran designer who presented a range of tailored coats and dresses in black, greys and blues, and metallic bronze, gold and silver.
Full length, masculine coats were sleek with sharp shoulders and belted, nipped-in waists worn by models with back-combed beehive hair and skin tight black leather thigh-high boots and black leather arms.
Tiny waists were also seen in the dresses, which matched a top with big collars and sharp shoulders, or transparent fabrics with ruffles down the front, with bowl-like, mid-thigh length skirts.
Caroline Charles, who followed Costelloe, showed gold cropped jackets and brightly jewelled shift dresses in soft lines, contrasted with mannish tweed skirt suits in browns and greens with strong shoulders and belted waists.