In the summer of 1992, the London press was all a-scribble about Lee Alexander McQueen’s MA graduation collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims. Among the dark, sexy, Dickensian delights from this cocky son of a cab driver were a thorn-print, silk frock coat with a three-point “origami” tail, and a bustle-backed tuxedo with a daggerlike, red-lined lapel—both with locks of human hair sewn into the lining. The presentation showed remarkable polish; but, then, the ambitious McQueen was already remarkably experienced: At 16, he’d ditched his schoolbooks and taken up a pair of scissors on Savile Row. Particularly charmed by the swaggering East Ender was the editor Isabella Blow, who snapped up his first effort in its entirety and swept the designer under her influential wing.
Early on, Alexander, as he called himself professionally, cultivated a reputation as Britain’s baddest bad-boy designer. On his runway, punk-haired models flipped off the audience and flashed their buttock cleavage. (His notorious Bumster trousers, at first derided by the press, got a boost when the pop queen Madonna wore them; they would later be credited for the trend in low-rise jeans.) At the end of one show, he took his bow by mooning all assembled. Sure of his genius, he blew off interviews. He even stood up Irving Penn.