The brilliant designer’s death shocked and stunned the whole fashion world, as designers, retailers and fashion insiders got under way in NY this week. Scheduled for March 9 at La Conciergerie Paris, Alexander McQueen’s show would have been among the last of the Paris Fashion Week.

The self-described “big mouth East English yob” has captured the spotlight with his creativity, showmanship and iconoclasm that almost single-handedly put London back onto the fashion map.

McQueen was called by the critics an enfant terrible and a hooligan of English fashion. Known for his aggressive side and fascination of dark subjects, he proved a captivating storyteller, creating deeply realized characters through fashion that awed his audiences.

Son of a taxi driver and a social science teacher, Lee Alexander McQueen was born in London on March 17, 1969. His father wanted him to become an electrician or a plumber, but Lee always knew he wanted to work in fashion. Being aware of his homosexuality at an early age of 8, he was mocked by other children who called him “McQueer.” He leftschool at 16 to apprentice as tailor at Anderson & Sheppard and then Gieves & Hawkes.

By the time he’s 21, McQueen had also worked for a theatrical costume company and designers Koji Tatsuno and Romeo Gigli. He got his master’s degree at London’s Central Saint Martins (formerly Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) in 1994.

McQueen’s graduate collection caught the attention of Isabella Blow, the late, legendary, fashion guru who purchased his entire graduation collection and helped him make industry connections. Blow’s suicide in 2007 “just left a big void in my life,” McQueen told W magazine back in 2008. In Isabella Blow’s memory, he stated a tribute show, with angel wings as a backdrop and a poster-size invitation that depicted Blow riding to the heavens in a chariot pulled by winged horses.

Speculations center on whether McQueen had been depressed over Blow’s suicide, but the trigger was the death of McQueen’s beloved mother last week. Details about funeral services were not available at press time. McQueen is survived by his father and five sisters.

The McQueen company issued a statement, saying, “We are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee’s family.” It added, “Lee’s family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news.”

Tributes Arrive at the Home of Alexander McQueenFloral tributes outside the McQueen shop, London

McQueen won the British Fashion Awards’ British Designer of the Year several times and won the Men’s Wear Designer of the Year award in 2004. In 2003, he received the CFDA Award for Best International Designer and was honored with a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the fashion industry.

McQueen said he hoped to create special capsule collections so the public could buy his designs right off his runway. He was also dreaming of setting up glass pyramids, “anywhere in the world,” he said, and beaming holograms of his fashion shows into them. “This is the birth of a new dawn,” McQueen said and, perhaps in a comment that perfectly captured his entire career, he added, “There is no way back for me now. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.”

Source: WWD Photos: Getty Images