Published on November 6, 2012 | by Adam Leyland

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McQueen’s life showcased by CSM lecturer’s book

Alexander McQueen: The Life and Legacy is out now [Carlton/Goodman Books]

The book, Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy, released on October 30, showcases the life of the former CSM student and fashion designer.

It takes readers from McQueen’s graduate collection at the college, to the designs created just days before his death.

The book outlines his development as a designer and what made him unique, with each of his collections chronologically analysed.

Lee Alexander McQueen was 40 when he committed suicide in February 2010, a week after the death of his mother, who according to the author was “a really important person to him, over and above anybody else.”

The author, fashion historian and lecturer of BA Fashion Communication and Promotion at CSM, Judith Watt, told Arts London News that she was anxious about being asked to write the book.

“There was a lot of nervousness about uncovering his past. McQueen is a big company, it is corporate, and has an image to protect,” she said.

“That kid was going to the National Gallery when he was a young teenager to look at art.” Judith Watt

“I thought, well, he is more interesting than just a corporate figure. I wanted to get that across, because he was an amazing person.”

Watts explained how Bobby Hillson, the woman who helped set up the MA Fashion at CSM, asked her if she would write the book.

“McQueen adored her [Hilson], she was the one who bent the rules to get him into CSM and onto the MA Fashion course, because he didn’t have the qualifications.

“I knew she was important to McQueen, and she was important to me. That is why I decided to do it,” said Watt.

Behind the book

Judith Watt [Jillian Edelstein]

Watt said that she was inspired by the smaller details of his life and his talent as a designer: “I wanted to find out about his obsession with birds – watching them from the top of his tower block where he was brought up, you know, that kind of magic,” she said.

Talking of McQueen’s younger days, Watt said: “That kid was going to the National Gallery when he was a young teenager to look at art.

“He trained as an apprentice tailor in Saville Row. He could make a suit from start to finish by hand. He loved a good suit.

“He knew his mind and he went for it. That is heroic in my world.” Judith Watt

“One of his friends told me: ‘Lee did everything on no money, he’d get a bit of plastic and make a dress out of it, and he’d get it on the runway.’”

ALN asked Watt about the impression that McQueen has left on the fashion world: “He strived against all odds and was never afraid to do something new.

“He was never afraid to confront– that makes him highly unusual and it makes him unique in fashion worldwide. He knew his mind and he went for it. That is heroic in my world,” she added.

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