Alexander McQueen Was A 'Cut Above,' Writer Says

  • British fashion designer Alexander McQueen is surrounded by applauding models after a Paris show in 1997. The influential designer was found dead Thursday in his London home. He was 40 years old.
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    British fashion designer Alexander McQueen is surrounded by applauding models after a Paris show in 1997. The influential designer was found dead Thursday in his London home. He was 40 years old.
    Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
  • A model wears a feather headdress design by Alexander McQueen at a 1998 show in Paris. McQueen began his career at the age of 16 with an apprenticeship as a tailor on London's Savile Row.
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    A model wears a feather headdress design by Alexander McQueen at a 1998 show in Paris. McQueen began his career at the age of 16 with an apprenticeship as a tailor on London's Savile Row.
    Michel Euler/AP
  • McQueen's originality was not only limited to his textile creations. A model wears a pair of McQueen's "armadillo" shoes at the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week in June 2009.
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    McQueen's originality was not only limited to his textile creations. A model wears a pair of McQueen's "armadillo" shoes at the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week in June 2009.
    Sipa Press via AP
  • An employee adjusts the wings on a male model during Givenchy's 1997 spring/summer haute couture fashion collection by McQueen at a Paris show in January 1997.
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    An employee adjusts the wings on a male model during Givenchy's 1997 spring/summer haute couture fashion collection by McQueen at a Paris show in January 1997.
    Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
  • Models display McQueen's fall/winter 2008-09 ready-to-wear collection presented in Paris in February 2008.
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    Models display McQueen's fall/winter 2008-09 ready-to-wear collection presented in Paris in February 2008.
    Jacques Brinon/AP
  • McQueen was known by some in the design industry as the  "enfant terrible" or "anarchist designer." A model wears one of McQueen's creations as part of his fall/winter 2009-10 ready-to-wear collection in Paris in March 2009.
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    McQueen was known by some in the design industry as the "enfant terrible" or "anarchist designer." A model wears one of McQueen's creations as part of his fall/winter 2009-10 ready-to-wear collection in Paris in March 2009.
    Christophe Ena/AP
  • In 2003 McQueen was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also named British Designer of the Year four times.
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    In 2003 McQueen was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also named British Designer of the Year four times.
    Matthew Fearn/Press Association via AP Images
  • A model wears a Chinese-style hairpiece designed by McQueen at a Paris show in October 2004.
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    A model wears a Chinese-style hairpiece designed by McQueen at a Paris show in October 2004.
    Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
  • Models walk the runway during McQueen's Pret a Porter show as part of the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 in June 2009.
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    Models walk the runway during McQueen's Pret a Porter show as part of the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 in June 2009.
    Sipa Press via AP
  • A model on the catwalk at McQueen's Black Fashion Show in March 2004. Though McQueen's designs were sometimes considered controversial and unconventional he was continually praised for his creativity.
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    A model on the catwalk at McQueen's Black Fashion Show in March 2004. Though McQueen's designs were sometimes considered controversial and unconventional he was continually praised for his creativity.
    Jung Kim/Press Association via AP
  • McQueen waves to an audience at his Pret a Porter show during the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 in June 2009.
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    McQueen waves to an audience at his Pret a Porter show during the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 in June 2009.
    Sipa Press via AP

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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 in March 2006 i i

British fashion designer Alexander McQueen acknowledges applause after a March 2006 show in Paris. Michel Euler/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Michel Euler/AP
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen in March 2006

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."

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