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Interview: Alexander McQueen

published on 16 December 2003

Globally acclaimed fashion designer and long-term collaborator of SHOWstudio, Alexander McQueen answered a wide-ranging selection of questions posed by global viewers, celebrities and friends in an often candid and sometimes outrageous one-on-one interview. The first fashion designer interviewed as part of our In Camera series, McQueen's stature and influence on the international fashion world ensured a riveting live discussion.

This interview was showcased online with a series of live stills updated throughout the course of the interview, and a real-time transcript typed and edited live.

Globally acclaimed fashion designer and long-term collaborator of SHOWstudio, Alexander McQueen answered a wide-ranging selection of questions posed by global viewers, celebrities and friends in an often candid and sometimes outrageous one-on-one interview. The first fashion designer interviewed as part of our In Camera series, McQueen's stature and influence on the international fashion world ensured a riveting live discussion.

46 Q&A Posts

  • Q. You are at the zenith of a faultless career and yet collections themes including dance marathons and carousels hint that you feel caught up in something relentless and gruelling. How often do you think of stopping? Penny Martin, Editor in Chief, SHOWstudio, London
    After every collection. No, usually if it's a good show it fires me to continue. Otherwise, if I'm not too happy with it, I might think of calling it a day. it depends on what mood I'm in.
  • Q. What do you consider to be the greatest motivation behind your work? James Mannox, London
    Always trying to better myself, looking for that pinnacle in my life. My career highs, which I don't think I've achieved yet.
  • Q. Do you ever have creative blocks and does your personal life ever affect the way you design? Tracey Emin, London
    Not so much the collections, but the shows are kind of auto-biographical. I've had this conversation with you before, after a bad collection. I think for anyone in the arts, it has to be autobiographical since it's so personal. You can usually tell if I'm happy or sad from my shows.
  • Q. When you are developing each collection, what inspires your choice of silhouette? Calvin Scully, South Africa
    Usually the mood of the show. If the show's oppressive and the collection is suffocating in any way, then it affects the line. If it's lighter, then things get bigger, but usually everything's tight!
  • Q. Your Bellwether piece on SHOWstudio showcasing your collections over the past few years is inspiring. I especially revelled in the robot assault. What would you consider are the five most important considerations in getting a design or concept off the ground? Andrew, Brisbane
    Balance is the main thing. The show shouldn't overshadow the clothes and vice versa. There always must be some sort of interaction with the audience to get the message across that's going through your mind. The one show in which that was key was the asylum show, with the padded cell. It's good to leave the audience in bewilderment.
  • Q. Have you considered designing a different line targeting to a younger (less expensive) market? Luiz Rosa, Unknown
    No.
  • Q. Which historical era has had the greatest influence on your work? Philip Treacy, London
    Flemish. Van Eyck, Hans Memling. Gothic. Bosch. 14th and 15th Century Flanders.
  • Q. What fabric has inspired you most? Terri Scott, Scotland
    Animal skins. Not so PC, but there's nothing better than nature. Nature is a fabric itself.
  • Q. How much of an impact did Saint Martins have on you and your design skill? And, what were you like as a student? Adil Oliver Sharif, London / Brandon Pierre, USA
    St Martins is a lot about hype and not much substance. As a student, I spent a lot of my time in the pool room in the cafe since I didn't feel I was learning much.
  • Q. Your perfume 'Kingdom' has a very distinctive smell. Will you launch some perfume for the masculine public? David Solis, San Antonio / Alexandre Camargo, Sao Paulo
    I'm working on it now. It will be launched in 2005.
  • Q. What qualities do you look for in the fashion models that present your collections?' And who is your favourite model ever and why? Florencia Pomar, Director of MJK Models, Argentina, Louisville, USA
    The show dictates the models we use. The show's always different so the models used are always different. I don't have favourites so it's about what's right for the show.
  • Q. When will clothes be computerised? J G Ballard, United Kingdom
    As soon as I figure out how to use a computer. I'm working on something for the future. It's just a constant chore to bring clothing into the 21st Century.
  • Q. Are you interested in making beautiful clothes or fashionable ones? What is the difference? What do you see as the connection, if any, between LOOKING good and BEING good? For much of Western history attempts were made to unite beauty with goodness. Why does fashion have to change? In response to what exactly? Alain de Botton, United Kingdom
    I'll take one of those. The only way I can answer this is that sometimes, I feel it's my job to give people that different part of their personality - the opposite of being demure- to hide behind. When I witness people in McQueen, when they walk into a room, people want to know to know more about that person, from having selected to wear those clothes. I don't want to sound big-headed, but it makes them appear more interesting.
  • Q. If you were asked to create a monument to 'fashion victims', what would it look like? Alexander Rymkeich, Fashion Editor, 'Fashion Collection', Moscow
    The John Heartfield photomontage with the dove. It would replaced by all brand logo monograms, pierced by a sword.
  • Q. What items of clothing make you cringe when you see someone wearing them? Monica, Australia
    Platform shoes. It's all about proportion and that's not proportion.
  • Q. What is the difference between romance and sex? How does it apply to your work? Ronnie Cook Newhouse, London
    I think it's the difference between making love and having sex. Your heart goes into it and sex is on a superficial level. Romance is where my heart is.
  • Q. Lately, menswear has been starting to adopt the aesthetic of women's for variety, colour and style. What would your ultimate male image be? Dandy, S&M, homo-chic, Gucci-slick, updated punk, etc? Deborah Pach, Melbourne
    Menswear is I think fundamentally designed by men themselves. It's the hardest part of any house to design, because it's such a resistant audience. Men don't like being dictated to like women.
  • Q. Have you ever designed an outfit for a World Champion Boxer? If you were asked to design a robe for a boxer to wear when entering the ring for a World Championship Title Contest, can you describe roughly how it would appear? Alan Minter, UK
    I named my dog after you because I've got such a big crush! I would, but only if it's for you!
  • Q. I would like to know what makes a haute couture garment haute couture (technically) and who makes it? Priscilla Torminn, Brazil
    To make Haute Couture, you have to have an atelier of at least 50 people working for you. Every piece, every panel, every button is hand-made. Mainly, you have to be a member of the Chambre Syndicale.
  • Q. Should classical artists perform concerts and recitals in formal tails or would you propose another idea? Jose Carreras, Spain
    I'd like to see you in denim and cowboy boots. Maybe Pavarotti in a jock-strap?
  • Q. Have you ever thought of designing clothes for an opera? Bjork, New York
    No, but if you were in it, maybe. I can see you in Madame Butterfly, but based on the moon.
  • Q. Although homosexuality is still a contentious subject in Western society, you seem not to be scared by letting your sexuality known. Has that required bravery? Has your sexuality helped you to design your collections? Stephen Li, Brighton
    I think before you get onto a public platform, you have to deal with yourself before you put yourself out there. Things like sexuality always come out, and you come off worse by not being true to yourself. I came out in i-D magazine when I was 19. I remember it like it was yesterday. Yes, I think my sexuality has helped my designs.
  • Q. Where is fashion heading? Bita Mansouri, Reading
    To the abyss.
  • Q. Since the Gucci Group has supported your work your collections have become more commercial than ever before. Which elements have affected you since that time? Stephen Li, Brighton, England
    It's never become more commercial; it's always been the same. Nothing affects me.
  • Q. What type of industry has fashion been to you? Do you still see it in the same light as when you entered it? Susanna Crosta, London
    Fashion is like any entertainment industry. It's fickle. I've always seen it in the same light: shallow.
  • Q. Knowing what type of person you are, I would like to know if you would be interested indesigning for another brand again, and if so which one? Azzedine Alaia, France
    I may consider it.
  • Q. How do you feel about Tom Ford and Domeico Desole leaving the Gucci group? And, are you going to be involved in Gucci or YSL in place of Tom Ford? Chapton Jamsirirojrat, Gustavo Guzman, Texas / Claudia Croft, London
    Sad and no comment.
  • Q. Which fashion designers or companies do you admire that don't get the recognition they deserve? Mary Moore, New York
    Koji Tatsuno. Margiela. Dirk Van Sanae. Too many to mention.
  • Q. Does fashion really matter? David, Los Angeles / Kate Smith (Plus Size Model & Fan), California / Amy jane Goble, South London
    Of course. Does sex?
  • Q. When I collaborate with you on a visual problem I'm always impressed that you appear to have almost total clarity about how you envision the end result, whereas I need to work through many possibilities before I come to a conclusion I am certain about. Are you conscious and confident of this lucidity, and does it carry through to other areas of your work and life? Nick Knight, Director, SHOWstudio, London
    Yes, usually I visualize an end result before I embark on a project. If I can't see an end result, then I don't think it's possible. Then, at the end of the day, I like to make mistakes.
  • Q. What do you think of the status fashion has in the twenty first century regarding its relationship with other 'arts' like design or visual art? Sergio Calderon, Santander
    I think fashion has been put more on a level with the entertainment industry. I don't think fashion and art as two separate entities really combine. Fashion is more to do with entertainment.
  • Q. What is your thought process when creating a piece? Does it just happen as a random thought or do you look at all of the variables first and sort out the best one? Louisham, Singapore / Al Saulso, Houston
    It's precise. Everything is always finely tuned. There is no room for manoeuvre.
  • Q. Do you see your work as a process of taking in culture and reinterpreting it in your own way? Jeffrey Lacson, Chicago
    Again, my work is biographical, so anything I experience, I digest and then vomit back into society.
  • Q. Sincerity or irony? K.S., Freelance Journalist, Moscos
    Sincerity.
  • Q. Do you wear a butt plug? Kate Moss, London
    No, but I might need to soon.
  • Q. It is rumoured that you embroidered 'CUNT' into the lining of a jacket you made for Prince Charles. How are you feeling about your recent approval from the 'British Establishment'? Lenor, Los Angeles / Ken Ludlow, Chiswick
    I didn't embroider it, I wouldn't waste my time! I wrote it with a biro. I accepted the CBE for my parents. I'm not a big royalist.
  • Q. What is your favourite film? Adah, Milan
    Paris Texas. And Salo by Passolini. Any Wim Wenders is good.
  • Q. What is your personal definition of beauty? I appreciate you collecting my work and would like to know what you consider beautiful in my work. Joel-Peter Witkin, USA
    I think there is beauty in everything. What 'normal' people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it. I appreciate your work with the same depth of feeling as that of Bosch. Your Leda and the Swan is one of my favourite pieces. I find the man so graceful.
  • Q. Who do you admire admire and holds in high esteem - for their work, deeds, values or beliefs - in any walk of life? Daisy Garnett, Commissioning Editor, Vogue, London
    The Queen of England, because I'd hate to have her job. Anyone that can do that job must be a bit insane, so you've got to give it to her.
  • Q. In response to the controversy surrounding the Giorgio Armani exhibition at the Royal Academy, Do you think there should be more fashion exhibited in galleries? Ellie Stacpoole, Battersea
    No.
  • Q. Describe what would be a fantasy moment of pure happiness to you. Katy England, London
    Katy you dirty cow, 10 12" dicks
  • Q. Vladimir Nabokov was sure that letter 'M' was pink. His wife Vera didn't agree saying it could be nothing but blue. What colour is your 'M' and your 'A'? Anna Kudevich, Latvia
    Lilac and black.
  • Q. Can you please tell a joke? Susannah Frankel, London
    Me.
  • Q. If you could go back to any period in history which period would you pick? Daphne Guiness, London
    Victorian London, Jack the Ripper time. I'd like to find him.
  • Q. What tips would you give people who want to make their way in the fashion business? Daniel Pratt, London / Chloe Kerman, Vienna / Family Rihl, Gustavo Guzman, Texas / Morgan, Paris / Florencia Kozuch, Argentina
    Have a complete understanding that you're good at it before trying. Otherwise, don't bother because it's not worth the pain. I wouldn't try to be an actor.
  • Q. Who do you most want to surprise next? Jake, Auckland
    Myself.
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