New York Fashion Week began with the unexpected and devastating news that the British designer Lee Alexander McQueen, one of the industry's most celebrated figures, had been found dead in his London flat, having apparently committed suicide the day before the funeral of his mother, Joyce. Almost since the moment of his graduation from Central Saint Martins in 1992, McQueen had been notorious for his outlandish, theatrical fashion shows. But his unrivaled talent as a skilful tailor always underlay his attention-grabbing spectacles. His was a sartorial legacy that was evident even in the first day's shows in New York.
McQueen's Meatpacking District store was closed and the presentation of his McQ line was cancelled by its organisers. Yet on both the runways and on the icy New York streets, there were generous sprinkles of clothing which seemed to echo McQueen, as if in tribute to the late designer. Although these collections were put together over the past three months, before his untimely death, style watchers found it hard to not see elements of McQueen's design philosophy almost everywhere.
Around town, chic women in towering heels wore voluminous fur and leather coats in a manner reminiscent of how the British designer made hide look strikingly utilitarian by extracting the gaudy ostentation. Meanwhile, on the runways, Vena Cava used it as an accent to its hip collection, Richard Chai employed it to amp up the glamour of his contemporary collection called Love, and Rachel Comey used it as vest and pockets in a printed dress.
At Gwen Stefani's line L.A.M.B., the belts were redolent of McQueen's tendency to produce an aggressive silhouette; Michael Angel's use of graphic, symmetrical prints and futuristic silhouettes were reminiscent of the designer's recent collections; and Toni Maticevski's glorious amalgamation of materials such as silk, tulle, wool, metallics and velvet, and techniques such as pleating, draping and embroidery in his collection speaks to the superb technical abilities of the late craftsman. Maticevski even used several of those elements in one look, which is a laudable feat of design engineering.
Chado Ralph Rucci, too, has the rare ability to effectively mix myriad fabrics, creating textures with basket-weaving fabrics, elongating the feminine form with panelling and pops of colours at just the right spots of the body, and balancing soft and hard fabrics in a palatable way characteristic of innovators such as McQueen. Although McQueen's supremacy has been sadly cut short, his level of craftsmanship and the fearless way in which he designed will live on in fashion legend.