Alexander McQueen was attached to darkness, says designer’s nephew

The nephew of Alexander McQueen has spoken of the designer’s shock death and attachment to “darkness”.

“Lee” McQueen took his own life in 2010 after rising from a working-class background to become a major figure in the fashion industry.

His nephew, Gary McQueen, worked alongside his uncle, and had been helping him with his final task before his death – a memorial.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Gary McQueen, nephew of Alexander McQueen, and artist Sophie Meseg, from Graffiti Life, unveil a mural in celebration of the film McQueen (Scott Garfitt)</figcaption>
Gary McQueen, nephew of Alexander McQueen, and artist Sophie Meseg, from Graffiti Life, unveil a mural in celebration of the film McQueen (Scott Garfitt)

Mr McQueen was speaking at the unveiling of a skull motif mural in London’s Shoreditch, painted in honour of his uncle.

He said the late fashion innovator poured his nightmares and dreams into his work.

“I was working with him on a memorial for my nana and grandad,” he said. “He called me into his office. He said ‘I want you to finish this now. Find a sculptor and I’ll fund everything’.

“He seemed a lot brighter than he had for the past couple of weeks. I thought he was actually getting better. Then I came in and was told the news. You can’t really process it. I went into shock.”

He added: “There was that attachment to death, to the darkness. That was in his work.

“Everything he was went into his work – his nightmares, his dreams, his fears, his loves. All of it.

“Art has always been an escape, same for me. It takes you away from your troubles.”

At the age of 40, world-renowned designer McQueen took his own life in his Mayfair home.

He had risen from a job on Savile Row to working with Givenchy, and founding his own label.

His nephew said it was his artistic uncle who helped push him into his own creative career, and he has childhood memories of watching the future award-winning designer draw.

He said: “He would babysit and we would watch him draw. He would bring horror films over and tell us stories.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The Alexander McQueen mural in Ebor Street, Shoreditch (Scott Garfitt/PA)</figcaption>
The Alexander McQueen mural in Ebor Street, Shoreditch (Scott Garfitt/PA)

Years later the opportunity arose for them to work together, and Mr McQueen said his uncle held together a crazed studio.

He said: “We would order huge blocks of ice in. There would be interns rolling around in paint on the floor. There was always something going on.

“Lee was so creative, he always had an idea. He was the brain, we were the nervous system.

“To be honest, a lot of the time we didn’t know what we were working on until the show when it would all come together. He had such a creative mind.”

A new mural has been installed in Ebor Street in Shoreditch, with a skull veiled behind motifs from still life painting. 

The skull was a common feature in McQueen’s work, and his nephew said this arose from pirate shows before the idea stuck.

The design was used as the artwork for a documentary film, McQueen, written and co-directed by Peter Ettedgui.

He said: “I’m not interested in fashion per se.

“He is more than just a fashion designer – he was one of the major figures in British culture.”

The mural has been painted to mark the release of the documentary on DVD.

- Press Association

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