Designer Alexander McQueen was found Thursday at his apartment in London in an apparent suicide. He was 40 years old.
The British designer has been called the "hooligan of British fashion" — known for edgy designs, his bad boy attitude and his impeccable attention to detail.
And his life story was as dramatic as some of his designs. He was the son of a taxi driver and the youngest of six children. At age 16, he left school and went to work for a tony Savile Row house whose highbrow clients included Prince Charles.
McQueen later launched his own line, which was anything but refined.
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, who covered many of McQueen's fashion shows, calls his work "flamboyant and designed to provoke."
"Much of what he did often made you scratch your head and ask, 'Is he for or against women?' " she tells NPR's Michele Norris. "You weren't quite sure if he was empowering them or if he was subjugating them."
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen acknowledges applause after a March 2006 show in Paris.
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen acknowledges applause after a March 2006 show in Paris. Michel Euler/AP
But he was also known for his impeccable sense of tailoring and design.
"I think that's one of the reasons why he was really a cut above," Givhan says. "It's very easy for a designer to go over the top and to be shocking." Givhan adds that first lady Michelle Obama wore suits that McQueen designed, most likely for his tailoring skills.
But McQueen was facing some difficult challenges. Three years ago, his friend Isabella Blow committed suicide, and his mother died Feb. 2. On his Twitter page, McQueen had said he wanted his mother to rest in peace "but life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Givhan says there is no more information about his death and it's hard to tell if he was depressed from the tweets.
"He was a complicated guy," she says. "There were clearly recent events in his life that were quite sad."