British authorities: Fashion designer Alexander McQueen hanged himself in his London home

By Jill Lawless, AP
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Alexander McQueen hanged himself in London home

LONDON — A bereaved Alexander McQueen left a note, then hanged himself in his apartment on the eve of his mother’s funeral, a coroner’s inquest said Wednesday, giving the cause of the fashion designer’s death as asphyxiation and hanging.

The inquest has yet to formally deliver a ruling of suicide, but police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Coroner’s official Lynda Martindill told the inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court that the body of 40-year-old McQueen was found in an armoire at his London apartment on Thursday. In the dispassionate language of the inquest, she referred to him as “a single man, a fashion designer.”

Days before he died, McQueen had left several messages on the social networking site Twitter revealing his grief at his mother’s recent death.

Police detective inspector Paul Armstrong told the inquest there were no suspicious circumstances. He gave the note found at the scene to coroner Paul Knapman but did not disclose its contents.

After a five-minute hearing, the coroner adjourned the inquest until April 28. Full details of the autopsy also will be available in a few months.

McQueen’s family, who are now free to hold the designer’s funeral, issued a statement through their lawyers appealing to the media to respect their privacy following their “grievous double loss.”

They have not released details of the funeral.

In Britain, inquests are held whenever someone dies violently or in unexplained circumstances.

McQueen’s death has cast a shadow over London Fashion Week, which opens on Friday. A spokeswoman said the event would feature a tribute to the designer, whose attention-grabbing designs helped re-energize British fashion after a fallow period following the punk explosion in the 1970s.

“There will be something simple and tasteful,” she said. “The time for memorials will be later in the year.”

She spoke on condition of anonymity because organizers are waiting for McQueen’s family to approve the tribute.

Known for his dramatic statement pieces and impeccable tailoring, McQueen dressed celebrities from Cameron Diaz to Lady Gaga and influenced a generation of designers.

He was named British Designer of the Year four times and awarded the title of CBE — Commander of the Order of the British Empire — by Queen Elizabeth II.

Unlike many fashionistas, he came from a working-class background. The son of a cab driver, McQueen grew up on a public housing estate in London’s East End, left school at 16 and entered the fashion world the old-fashioned way, as a teenage apprentice to a Saville Row tailor. He later studied at Central St. Martin’s art college in London and was discovered by fashion guru Isabella Blow, who bought his entire graduation collection. She became a friend and mentor; her suicide three years ago shook the designer, who wept openly at her funeral.

McQueen was a private man who avoided the limelight, but his Twitter postings show emotional turmoil after his mother’s death on Feb. 2. McQueen had posted messages four days before his death about his “awful week,” and said he had to “somehow pull myself together and finish.”

His mother’s funeral was held the day after McQueen died.

Friends also said he might have felt under pressure to outdo himself at the unveiling of his new collection in Paris next month.

“I don’t think success was easy for him,” friend Plum Sykes wrote in the Sunday Telegraph this week. “He told me he was driven by his insecurities, and he believed that all successful people were.”

McQueen became chief designer at the Givenchy house in 1996, but was best known for his own label, in which Gucci bought a majority stake in 2001. McQueen retained creative control, and became famous for his dramatic and often uncategorizable creations: sculptural cocktail dresses in psychedelic patterns; headwear made of trash; 10-inch (25 centimeter) heels shaped like lobster claws.

His shows were highly theatrical events, incorporating film and historical references and innovative technology — including, at one memorable 2006 show, an appearance by Kate Moss in hologram form.

His outrageous pieces never sold in great numbers, but he became one of fashion’s best-known brands. He designed the outfit Janet Jackson was wearing when she had her breast-baring “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Outrageous chanteuse Lady Gaga — dressed in a lacy white ensemble and towering Marie Antoinette-esque wig — paid tribute to McQueen at the Brit music awards on Tuesday. “Thank you to Lee McQueen,” she said after winning one of three prizes, using the designer’s given name.

Onstage she performed a somber tribute song beside a mannequin wearing those signature lobster-claw shoes.


Associated Press Writer Sylvia Hui contributed to this report.

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