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Alexander McQueen Was A 'Cut Above,' Writer Says
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Alexander McQueen Was A 'Cut Above,' Writer Says

Art & Design

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

The fashion world is mourning the death of designer Alexander McQueen. He's been called the hooligan of British fashion, known for edgy designs, a bad boy attitude and an impeccable attention to detail. McQueen's body was found Thursday at his apartment in London. There are widespread reports that he committed suicide but no confirmation yet of how he died.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

McQueen's life story was as dramatic as some of his designs. The son of a taxi driver, the youngest of six children, he left school at age 16 and went to work for a Tony Savile Row house whose highbrow clients included Prince Charles.

McQueen later launched his own line that was anything but refined. And Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan has covered many an Alexander McQueen fashion show, and she joins us now to talk about the late designer. Welcome to the program.

Ms.�ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Writer, The Washington Post): Thank you.

NORRIS: Now, do we know any more details about his death?

Ms.�GIVHAN: So far no. I mean, nothing has been confirmed either via the family or through his spokespeople. So at the moment, we just know that his body was found.

NORRIS: He kept in touch with his fans and others by tweeting constantly. Were there signs based on those communications of any kind of depression? His mother had died recently.

Ms.�GIVHAN: It's so hard to tell from tweets, right? It's 140 characters. But, you know, he was a complicated guy. And not so very long ago, his friend, Isabella Blow, committed suicide, and she was a British editor and stylist who had sort of discovered him and supported him throughout his career. So, I mean, there were clearly recent events in his life that were quite sad.

NORRIS: Can you give us a sense of his work, Robin? The most striking example recently, I guess, were those incredible shoes that looked like some sort of lobster claws. They were called armadillo shoes, and I'm going to leave it to you to explain to our listeners exactly what they looked like.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms.�GIVHAN: Well, they sort of looked like reptilian claws with six-inch platforms that his models were asked to navigate his runway wearing. You know, I would describe his work as flamboyant and designed to provoke. Much of what he did often, you know, sort of made you scratch your head and ask: Is he sort of for or against women? I mean he really - you weren't quite sure if he was empowering them or if he was subjugating them.

NORRIS: He's known for his outrageous, flamboyant, over-the-top fashion, but he also had an impeccable sense of tailoring and design. If you actually looked at one of his garments or one of his handbags, the workmanship was absolutely beautiful. He seemed to combine both things.

Ms.�GIVHAN: Yeah, and I think that's one of the reasons why he was really a cut above, You know, he came from Savile Row, and that's you know, and that's serious business when it comes to tailoring, and you know, it's interesting that, you know, you sort of see the really provocative stuff that he put on his runway, but at the same time, the first lady has warn Alexander McQueen suits, and you know, you would sort of never put those two people together. But she, I have to assume, was sort of drawn to the tailoring in those suits.

NORRIS: Robin Givhan, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for coming back.

Ms.�GIVHAN: My pleasure.

NORRIS: That was Robin Givhan. She's a fashion writer for the Washington Post. She was speaking with us about British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. His body was found today in his London home. He was 40 years old.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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