British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home on Thursday, his spokeswoman said. He was 40 years old.
Company spokeswoman Samantha Garrett said McQueen’s body was discovered in the morning but that she had no information “in terms of circumstances.” Police did not directly comment when asked about how McQueen died, but said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
His company issued a statement published in British newspaper The Guardian, saying, “On behalf of Lee McQueen’s family, Alexander McQueen today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, has been found dead at his home. At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee’s family.
“Lee’s family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news and we hope the media will respect this.”
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Known for his dramatic statement pieces and impeccable tailoring, McQueen received recognition from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003, when she made him a Commander of the British Empire for his fashion leadership.
“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.
“At one level he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashions shows that mixed design, technology and performance and on another he was a modern day genius whose gothic aesthetic was adopted by women the world over.”
He received his training at the Central St. Martin’s College of Art and Design, long recognized for its fashion-forward approach and encouragement of young designers.
McQueen worked for traditional Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard and also Gieves and Hawkes before branching out into his own more theatrical designs.
He became chief designer at the renowned Givenchy house in 1996 and moved to Gucci as creative director in 2001.
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 extravagance headwear made out of trash. His last collection, shown in October in Paris, featured extravagant and highly structured cocktail dresses.
His edgy creations have been seen on numerous red carpets, worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga, Sandra Bullock, and Cameron Diaz.
His work was widely praised in New York City on Thursday by fashion writers leaving the BCBG show, the opener at New York Fashion Week at Bryant Park.
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,” said Rubenstein.
Cindy Weber Cleary, another of the magazine’s fashion directors, said of McQueen: “He was a huge talent, a master of tailoring and always willing to push the envelope. He was forward thinking.”
Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, said: “Everyone in this tent is shocked. … He was obviously incredibly talented and had a creative energy. There was a real sense of energy in everything he did.”
Leive said he was “always extreme” in his collections.
McQueen’s death came days before London Fashion Week, although McQueen was not scheduled to show in the British capital. According to a report in People magazine, one of McQueen’s contemporary lines, McQ, was scheduled to be shown at New York Fashion Week on Thursday afternoon.
Fashion guru Isabella Blow, who helped launch McQueen’s career, committed suicide almost three years ago.