McQueen innovation fashion business

Alexander McQueen describes the end of his tumultuous four-and-a-half-year reign as head designer at the august House of Givenchy with an almost romantic analogy: ‘It was like having a boyfriend that you know you have to break up with – the only difference with this relationship was that I didn’t feel bad about doing it.’ The jilted ‘boyfriend’ in McQueen’s scenario is none other than fashion kingpin Bernard Arnault, the high-flying chairman and CEO of the £27bn luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), which counts among its many holdings Givenchy, Christian Dior, Celine, Loewe, Pucci, Kenzo, Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton and Donna Karan.
And the inevitable new boyfriend waiting in the wings, the one McQueen was flirting with all last summer? That would be Tom Ford, creative director of the Gucci Group, who along with Domenico De Sole, Gucci’s CEO, orchestrated one of the most controversial coups in recent fashion history by poaching McQueen from Arnault’s star-studded stable of designers.

McQueen is the fashion community’s very own Johnny Rotten: a foul-mouthed loud mouth who once wrote ‘I am a cunt’ in the lining of a jacket destined for the Prince of Wales, once titled a runway show ‘Highland Rape’ (featuring clothes accessorised with what appeared to be tampon strings), and once sent an amputee down the runway.

In other words, McQueen knows how to garner headlines and loves few things more than, as he says, ‘winding up’ journalists. Over the years, he has waxed poetic about his bouts with drugs and publicly insulted Madonna, and Posh and Becks. (‘This man is vainer than the veins running through my dick, I swear,’ McQueen once said of Becks. ‘And that’s vain.’)


He has also let loose with the kinds of ostensibly off-the-cuff quips virtually guaranteed to get him quoted – referring to Cherie Blair as ‘cheesy’ after meeting her at a reception at 10 Downing Street. Or turning down an invitation from the Queen to a reception for the emperor of Japan at Buckingham Palace: ‘I just couldn’t be bothered.’

If McQueen rarely misses an opportunity to thumb his nose at the establishment in general, he is particularly vitriolic when it comes to the LVMH establishment. Never mind that Arnault presented him with a reported £1.5m annual paycheque, an apartment on the Place de Vosges, and a Mercedes sedan and driver to squire him around Paris. Of his tenure at Givenchy, a decidedly melodramatic McQueen claims, ‘It was worse than being a gladiator.’

McQueen isn’t the first enfant terrible to have bitten the hand that fed him so well. Nor is he the first to have made the ladies in the little gold chairs lining the catwalk squirm. Vivienne Westwood once sent models down her runway wearing sheer stockings adorned with drawings of erect phalluses. And Jean Paul Gaultier, who installed pissoirs as dressing rooms in his Paris boutique, sent a parade of musclemen down his runway – wearing opera gloves and elaborate evening gowns. Thirty years back, even Yves Saint Laurent caused a scandale when he asked Jeanloup Sieff to photograph him nude for an ad campaign.

Such shock tactics work, of course, when wedded to extraordinary talent. Which, love him or hate him, McQueen has. Though not one to frighten the horses himself, Paul Smith has gone on record as an unabashed McQueen admirer: ‘There are so many stylists in this business posing as designers. There are very few real designers who have a real craft, which is to say a sense of cut, proportion and tailoring. Alexander has it.’

As for the rest of the British fashion industry, well, it has been predictably awed by the noisy East Ender whose cockney accent is so glottal it sometimes sounds as though he has a speech impediment. If nothing else, runways immersed in oil and models encircled by flames make great copy. Meaning that McQueen’s shows, consistently staged in eerily lit warehouses miles away from the tents in South Kensington, became the sine qua non of London Fashion Week. Not everyone is dazzled, of course. ‘His only usefulness is a measure of zero talent,’ said Westwood. A ‘talentless upstart’ offered Saint Laurent, whose business partner, Pierre Bergé, somewhat presciently added that in his opinion McQueen was ‘completely miscast’ at Givenchy.

The timing of McQueen’s defection to Gucci couldn’t have been more inopportune for LVMH, because this season, after a rollercoaster series of hit-and-miss shows, the 31-year-old designer drew rave reviews for his spring 2001 collections for both Givenchy in Paris and his own label in London. ‘If one person can really be said to claim the season it was Alexander McQueen,’ wrote Cathy Horyn, fashion reporter for The New York Times. ‘With his own collection in London, and the one he showed a couple of weeks later in Paris for Givenchy, Mr McQueen proved with his erotic blend of masculine tailoring and feminine underpinnings that he supremely gets this mojo moment.’

The son of a cab driver – the youngest of six children – Lee Alexander McQueen was born in the heart of London’s East End. His mother Joyce has traced family’s roots back to the 16th century, and those roots are a theme McQueen constantly brings up in his life and work, claiming, ‘Every part of my background comes from something, be it the Jacobites or the Huguenots.’

McQueen realised he was gay on a family holiday at Pontins – where he won the ‘Prince of Pontins’ beauty competition. He did not publicly announce his homosexuality until he was 18, however, for fear of how his family would react – particularly his brother Michael, now a cab driver, and his father Ronald, who is still something of an off-limits subject.

‘There’s a side of my life, my early childhood, I wish to forget about,’ says McQueen, darkly. ‘I was born to some parts of aggression, but maybe it made me stronger…’

Although he and his father ‘now have a mutual respect and understanding for one another’, it is significant that the only time McQueen senior was ever spotted at one of his son’s fashion shows was the time he dropped his wife off, and then drove away.

Leaving school at 16, McQueen enrolled at a technical college, earning pocket money by clearing beer mugs. Despite the taunts of his brother and father, he desperately wanted to go to art school, but after watching a 1986 television programme about the shortage of tailor’s apprentices he decided to go knocking on a few Savile Row doors. Anderson & Sheppard was one of the first, and instantly he was offered a job – and the opportunity to learn bespoke tailoring from the bottom. To alleviate the ‘boredom’ of sitting on a bench padding labels, he wrote obscene messages and drew penises in the interlinings of jackets. After two years, he moved to Gieves & Hawkes, then to theatrical tailors Angels & Berman, where he learned ’16th-century pattern-cutting and stuff like that’. He took those skills along to Koji Tatsuno, a designer, then backed by Yohji Yamamoto.


After Tatsuno, McQueen bought a one-way ticket to Milan, where Romeo Gigli, his hero at the time, offered him a job as a pattern cutter. In 1989, he returned to London and applied for a teaching post at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. Though turned down for the post, he was offered a place in the school’s postgraduate course, which he accepted – thanks to a £4,000 loan from his beloved Auntie Renee. Isabella Blow, the eccentric great-granddaughter of Sir Jock Delves Broughton – who’s life was portrayed in White Mischief – happened to be in the front row of McQueen’s 1993 degree show. Now the Sunday Times ‘s style director, Blow was so impressed she not only bought the entire collection but became McQueen’s aristocratic patronne -cum-unofficial publicist.

Within three years, McQueen was being mentioned in the same breath as Damien Hirst and Oasis. This must have struck McQueen as slightly surreal, considering that it hadn’t been too long since he came off the dole and secured a modest manufacturing and distribution deal to launch his label.

It was in 1996, the year McQueen was named British designer of the year, that Bernard Arnault first took a serious interest in him. Arnault had John Galliano, the son of a London plumber, installed at the helm of Givenchy, but he was eager to move Galliano to Dior to replace Gianfranco Ferre. Aside from the fact that McQueen obviously knew how to calculate the rise of an inseam – and, like Hubert de Givenchy, had an eye for structure – Arnault was impressed by the designer’s talent for ‘converting press into commerce’, as McQueen once put it.

McQueen vividly remembers the call he got from LVMH’s then-director general Daniel Piette asking if he wanted the job at Givenchy. At the time, he was working out of a studio in London’s Hoxton Square and living in a tiny room cordoned off from the main space by a curtain. The call came in the morning, and McQueen was in bed with his boyfriend. ‘I thought, «Oh, please. I’m not designing a bloody football for Louis Vuitton,»‘ recalls McQueen. ‘And then I went to the toilet to have a think about it. When nothing came out, I got back on the telephone and said, «All right then.» I was very blasé about it. It took a while to sink in.’ McQueen signed a two-year contract in November 1996 (followed by a three-year contract in 1998). LVMH also offered to buy a stake in his company, but McQueen refused, on the advice of Blow. ‘I said, «They must not buy one share in your company,»‘ recalls Blow.

As soon as the first funds were wired to his bank, McQueen bought a small terraced house in Islington, north London. LVMH, meanwhile, messengered over caviare and champagne. But McQueen was not impressed – ‘I hate champagne’ – the moment did have resonance: ‘I thought, all this time I’ve been worrying about being homeless and freaking out about not being able to feed myself, and it was just, like, instantaneous.’

McQueen’s disaffection with the house best known for dressing Audrey Hepburn was almost as instantaneous – beginning the moment his debut Givenchy Haute Couture collection was disappointingly received in 1997. Though wounded by the reviews, McQueen refused to take the blame. ‘I had no support from the French,’ he says . ‘I’d design, they’d change the whole thing, and then the press would give me the flak for it. It was a case of too many cooks. Every time I’d be doing what I was doing, they’d have a different idea instead of letting me stick to my path, [my] illusion. You have to stick to that illusion, then it becomes identifiable especially for a house that did not have an image apart from Audrey Hepburn. I was never given that chance.’

Unlike Galliano – or le petit monsieur , as he has come to be known – who became friends with Arnault’s wife and spent frequent weekends at the couple’s Saint-Tropez villa, McQueen never made an attempt to immerse himself in French life. He refused to learn the language and crowed over the fact that he had not made a single French friend.

By the beginning of the Paris pr t-à-porter last October, rumours of McQueen’s imminent defection from Givenchy were rampant – perhaps because it made sense. After the acquisition of Yves Saint Laurent perfume and pr t-à-porter, Ford and De Sole made no secret that they were looking for talent to back. As De Sole teasingly told Time in May, ‘There are good opportunities. There are companies out there that can be bought. But I do have a limit. I have $2.5bn [£1.7bn].’

This, compounded with the persistent rumour that Ford would be giving up Gucci to concentrate on Yves Saint Laurent, only fired up the fashion gossips more. Of course, many of the rumours about McQueen were fuelled by the master provocateur himself, who had been photographed in New York partying at the opening of the Hudson hotel wearing a double-G Gucci fedora.

For those who missed that moment, McQueen made his feelings unmistakably clear in an interview published in Arena. ‘I asked to leave [Givenchy] in January and they said, «No, we can’t let you leave.» And I said, «Well in that case you’re just going to let me do my fucking job…» Otherwise it’s going to be the worst year. You know, «Fire me!», ‘cos that’s what I wanted anyway.’

And yet, true to unpredictable form, the Givenchy show that McQueen presented in the midst of all the rancour was so universally deemed his strongest to date that few picked up on the fact that the designer’s obligatory appearance on the runway at the end of the show was so curt. ‘Oh God, yeah,’ snorts McQueen. ‘I already knew! Why do you think I didn’t walk the whole length?’

Though Karl Lagerfeld is no stranger to firing off the occasional barb, even he raises an eyebrow over McQueen’s public displays of contempt for LVMH: ‘I am not sure he did it in a nice way as far as Mr Arnault, who was always very nice and supportive of him in interviews, is concerned.’ In Lagerfeld’s opinion, however, the chances of the liaison between McQueen and Arnault turning out better than it did weren’t good: ‘I think the spirit of French couture and his very special view of fashion – nearer to Damien Hirst than to Givenchy – were not made to be matched.’

Azzedine Alaïa doesn’t agree: ‘I respect McQueen for the English eccentricity he instilled in Parisian fashion… He was innocent enough to design clothes that were spectacular and unwearable. I think it’s better that he designs his own line, because Givenchy wasn’t for him. It didn’t suit his character.’

Although Arnault and De Sole had been waging a war of supremacy for almost two years, relations between the two titans had been reasonably amicable until early 1999, when Arnault suddenly launched a £5.9bn takeover bid for the Gucci Group. To fend him off, De Sole and Ford brought in a white knight, Françoise Pinault, whose company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), bought 42 per cent of the Gucci group for £2bn – thereby thwarting Arnault’s plan to count Gucci among the notches in his belt.



Even if the script had been written in Hollywood, the McQueen deal could not have been more gripping. On 27 November, Arnault filed a request for the courts to cancel the Gucci-PPR alliance. On 29 November, LVMH filed an official complaint with the US Securities Exchange Commission. The same day, Gucci announced it was going to file a criminal defamation suit against LVMH. On 30 November, LVMH announced it would countersue for defamation. And on 2 December, while the legal papers were flying, McQueen quietly got into bed with Ford and De Sole.

The Gucci-McQueen deal is no small blow to Arnault. LVMH has been the unrivalled leader in the luxury goods market – snagging such star talents as Galliano for Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton and Hedi Slimane for Christian Dior menswear. But with the defection of McQueen, Arnault’s boast of his pioneering method of putting ‘new wine into old bottles’ suddenly seems a bit more complicated. Arnault may also have to revise one of his favourite refrains, the one about how comparing Gucci to LVMH is like comparing a start-up company to Microsoft.

It is four days after the news was announced, and I am sitting in McQueen’s office near Islington. There are 11 months remaining in his contract with LVMH, a detail that is keeping the self-described ‘loudmouth’ uncharacteristically mum. Even so, his ever-present publicist, Amy Witton, wonders if I’d mind signing a confidentiality agreement.

A mixture of fatigue and relief is etched across McQueen’s face as he slumps in a chair and pats his body for a Marlboro Light. But then yesterday he was in Paris dealing with the fallout at LVMH. And last night was spent drinking caipirinhas at the Htel Costes with Blow and Marie De Petit Thoars, a descendant of Marie Antoinette’s. ‘It was a major deal,’ he explains flatly. ‘I wanted to get it signed quick because of the stress it was causing.’

Cleared of all the congratulatory bouquets, his office appears relatively unaffected by the news. Aside from the ringing telephones, the only interruption is the arrival of McQueen’s live-in-lover George Forsyth, a 24-year-old documentary film maker who freelances in advertising – here to accompany McQueen to the dentist. Since meeting nine months ago, the two have been inseparable. Last summer, they were married in Ibiza on a yacht owned by the prince of Gambia, an acquaintance of their friend Kate Moss, who played bridesmaid at the ceremony, which was attended by music producer Nellee Hooper and Jude Law and Sadie Frost.

Sitting on a table is a box filled with straw and Forsyth’s latest acquisition, a tortoise named Billy. Propped against a wall are seven framed photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin – one a birthday present to McQueen from Elton John and David Furnish. Witkin served as the inspiration for the finale of McQueen’s spring/summer 2001 show: a model, nude save for a gas mask, brought out in a glass box filled with thousands of fluttering moths, which escaped when the glass was shattered.

Although the price Gucci paid McQueen for 51 per cent of his company has not been disclosed, the word on the street is £54m. De Sole insists that number is not accurate, but whatever the amount, Gucci has obviously made a serious commitment to a designer whose collections have featured clothes crawling with live locusts. Ten new stores are allegedly in the offing, and McQueen has been promised his own ‘house’ in Paris by January 2002, making him the first British designer since Charles Worth to have his own name on a couture collection. ‘That was part of the deal,’ says McQueen. ‘I don’t think Arnault would ever have given me that, ‘cos he hasn’t given John [Galliano] it.’ There is also talk of a bespoke business for men.

In all of this, McQueen has De Sole’s backing. ‘We will support the business, we will provide the business expertise, but the one thing that is important is that Alexander must have his creative independence,’ says De Sole. ‘The question that I had to ask myself – because it’s my job – is does he really have the power and the talent to turn the Alexander McQueen label into a global brand? I think he does; otherwise I could not have done the deal, basically.’



Tom Ford, co-engineer of the coup d’état, echoes the sentiment: ‘For me there is a poetic quality to Lee’s work. He is a true artist, albeit an artist with real commercial savvy.’ ‘Lee’, not surprisingly, shares his new owners’ confidence in his chances of becoming a contender at cash registers around the world. ‘I see [Alexander McQueen] as a luxury-goods label, very modern, very 21st- century,’ says McQueen ‘[But] it doesn’t have to be a global brand to the point of Calvin Klein underwear or billboards.’

‘I don’t like to admit I’m a nice person,’ says McQueen. ‘But I try to please everyone. I can’t, but I try.’ McQueen also claims to be quite shy. ‘I don’t like standing out in a crowd. I clam up. I have panic attacks. What’s the word when you can’t take praise from anyone? Modest. Yeah. I’m extremely modest.’ This from the designer who once had the breathtaking arrogance to declare, ‘John [Galliano] was the 80s, and I am the 90s.’

‘People think he’s aggressive, but of course the aggression comes from the vulnerability,’ says Elton John. ‘He does strike out, but that’s all about insecurity. [John] Lennon was the same.’

‘There’s beauty in anger,’ says McQueen ‘Anger for me is a passion. If you don’t have passion for something, you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. How can you move something forward, if you are not confrontational? There comes a point where you just have to block off commercialism and do it from the heart. Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren may sell 2,000 pieces of a two-piece suit; I may only sell five of one of my suits. But one of my pieces will count for 1,000.’ Again: modest?

On the other hand, there are reports that McQueen can be generous and compassionate. One of his friends, the artist Sam Taylor-Wood, recalls the package of clothes McQueen sent after her recovery from breast cancer. And according to Susannah Frankel, his use of a disabled model on the runway wasn’t what it seemed. ‘Everyone thought, Oh my God, he’s going to turn this into a big freak show. But he masked it completely, so when she came out nobody knew. I’ve met Aimee Mullins [the model]; that’s what she’s always wanted to do, walk on the runway.’

Although McQueen is keen to point out he does not, like so many designers, ‘court celebrities’, he is fond of Gwyneth Paltrow, who attended his spring 2001 show in London. The two met last summer in New York while McQueen, his trusty publicist Witton, and Katy England, his creative director, were filming an eyewear campaign. ‘The way I remember it, I had her assistant’s number,’ says Witton. ‘So [we] thought, «Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if they met up.» I said, «Yeah, they’re at the Mercer Hotel.» So Katy said, «Why doesn’t she come to the Mercer?'» Paltrow did. The three had dinner, discussing among other things the possibility of a collaboration with photographer Nick Knight.

‘I like Gwyneth,’ says McQueen. ‘She’s a sweet girl, a typical American blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl… Done well in the movie industry. But I want to pull her apart and put her back together the way I see fit. I like to take people’s characters out of themselves.’

One other niggling detail guaranteed to rankle those with a mind for logic is that despite McQueen’s much-ballyhooed resolve not to sell a stake in his own company to LVMH, in April he proposed the idea to Marianne Tessler, the president of Givenchy. But neither Tessler nor Arnault seemed particularly interested, according to McQueen: ‘They said, «Yeah, yeah, yeah.» And nothing happened.’

A month later, Isabella Blow happened to be seated next to Tom Ford at a dinner in London. ‘I said, «Oh, you should look at Alexander,»‘ recalls Blow. ‘»He might be someone interesting for you to buy.» And [Ford] said, «Do you think so? I quite fancy him.» And I said, «So do I!» And he said, «Well, look, get him to ring me tomorrow.» So I rang [McQueen] and said, «Get your arse out of bed and ring Tom Ford – he fancies you.» He said, «No he doesn’t.» I said, «Yes, he does. It could be what you need.»‘

‘Izzy told me that [Ford] found me sexy, blah, blah, blah,’ says McQueen, ‘like you do when you’re interested in meeting someone.’ (For his part, Ford says, ‘Lee looks fierce in photos, but in real life he is a marshmallow – adorable, charming and kind.’)

Between May and October, a flurry of telephone calls took place between Ford and McQueen, and then early in October the two had dinner at The Ivy. As McQueen tells it, the vibe between them was electric. ‘We had Twiggy in front of us and Charles Saatchi behind us, and here we were, these two men sitting at this table, glowing. We were the centre of attention, not because of who we were but because of the strange combination. But we didn’t talk about fashion. We talked about our lives, our partners, everything we thought we wouldn’t talk about.’ The evening was obviously a success. As Richard Buckley, Ford’s partner of more than 10 years, remarks, ‘Tom would say, «I’m going out to dinner with Alexander, and you can’t come!» So I knew they were up to something.’

Back in May, at a party for Helmut Newton at the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, McQueen had made himself known to De Sole, who was there with his wife. Despite the two men’s somewhat impenetrable accents, they hit it off – with De Sole suggesting they meet up in London. In the middle of October, McQueen decided to warn Tessler that he was in negotiations with Gucci. ‘I liked her. That’s why I did tell her,’ he says. ‘I felt like I owed them that. [But] she didn’t start fluffing around.’ By the time Tessler did start ‘fluffing around’, it was too late.

In the days leading up to the 2 December signing, McQueen managed to avoid most of Tessler’s calls. He also had his assistant cancel a dinner scheduled for 1 December in London with Tessler and LVMH president Yves Carcelle. He was certain they were going to offer to back his company if he would agree to stay at Givenchy. But now that Gucci had come through… So he stayed at home, watched TV and had, as he says, ‘mad sex’.

The following afternoon, McQueen, Forsyth and Witton took a taxi to the Gucci office on Grafton Street. The signing took considerably longer than the designer had anticipated. After the 10th page, he turned to his lawyer and whispered, ‘What is this?’ It was then that he found out that he wasn’t signing a binding agreement, but the actual contract in its entirety. After a celebration of mineral water and a couple of cans of Coke – ‘We were working,’ says De Sole – McQueen and company walked out in such a daze that on their way to Maison Bertaux, McQueen’s favourite Soho patisserie, they got lost.

By Monday, the news was official. As the press release was announced, the Gucci Group had signed a definitive agreement to acquire 51 per cent of the luxury designer label Alexander McQueen for an undisclosed price, with the intention of turning the label into a global megabrand.

‘This relationship,’ it read, ‘will become exclusive upon the expiry in October 2001 of his other current creative responsibilities’ – pointedly alluding to the remaining months of McQueen’s contract with LVMH. The switchboards at the offices of Alexander McQueen in London and Givenchy in Paris were jammed. A terse statement was hurriedly issued by LVMH. Since LVMH had not backed McQueen’s own company, the way that it had backed those of John Galliano, Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs, it was ‘normal that Mr McQueen should seek financing for his tiny business.’ Of all the press McQueen received after the deal, it was the word tiny that most rankled.

De Sole, the victor, continued to insist that the timing was completely coincidental. ‘The week before the deal, you have to understand, was something pretty disgusting – what they did at LVMH,’ he says. ‘But it is something we did not control. We were working with Alexander, everything was proceeding, we had already planned to finish that weekend, and then that happened. We just stayed on course. This is nothing to do with our rivalry with LVMH. The fact that Alexander was at Givenchy was totally irrelevant. Some people in fashion were asking me if this was done against LVMH. This was silly. We are business people.’

One of the more subversive elements of McQueen’s character is that he, too, is something of a businessman. In 1997, for example, he changed the title of his spring ’98 show at the last minute – from ‘Golden Showers’ to ‘Untitled’ – concerned that American Express, his sponsor, might take offence. The company has sponsored his shows ever since. ‘You strive to get that equilibrium and you try to crack that perfect ideal of creativity and commercialism.’ says McQueen, in a rare burst of clarity. Still, he insists, it isn’t money that fuels him. ‘I believe in my integrity,’ he says, ‘And I believe the sole purpose of fashion is to create and not accumulate.’

This does not quite tally with some of his tastes. As friends will attest, ‘Lee loves a label.’ At the same time, he does not drive a car and still jokes about the one time he flew on a private plane, when Arnault took him back to London on the LVMH jet after the last Givenchy pr t-à-porter show. ‘I felt like Joan Collins,’ giggles McQueen, ‘like I should have had a fox round my neck.’

Joan Collins is one of McQueen’s most loyal fans. ‘I used to think Saint Laurent was the best cutter,’ she declares, ‘but [McQueen] cuts better than anyone I can think of. I wore an outfit of his last night to a party – a circular skirt with a huge bird embroidered on it and a jacket edged in fake monkey fur – and everyone was going, «Whose is that?» «God it’s fabulous!»‘

‘I don’t need any more money in my life,’ says McQueen, who had a dinner date with Collins at The Ivy that Wednesday. ‘I’m in fashion ‘cos I love it. I needed to find a way to get that love back.’

Which brings us to Didier, the driver whom McQueen inherited from Hubert de Givenchy. ‘In all the years I worked there, he never said one word to me,’ says McQueen. ‘Whether I’d had bad reviews or I’d be crying my eyes out after a terrible row with my boyfriend, he’d just sit there. And he spoke perfect English! I was really hurt by that.’ Apparently so, because suddenly McQueen tilts his head back to hide the tears that have welled up in his eyes.

‘I was thinking on the way to Charles de Gaulle last night – should I say something to him? In the end, I felt like I should have been driving him! It’s, like, that was the mentality I had to deal with. I felt totally isolated. I thought, «What am I doing working my fucking arse off for this company?» It still drives me mad thinking about it. But it’s fine… Maybe I’ll change the way LVMH thinks. Maybe they’ll start to treat people a bit more like human beings.’

Who knows whether De Sole will continue to be a beneficent boss? Oe whether Ford, the ferocious perfectionist, will really stand back while the incorrigible McQueen does what he does? Or whether McQueen’s image can actually be marketed for the mainstream in the way Gucci’s has? And, if so, whether he’ll like the result? As his friend Sam Gainsbury says, ‘He could jack it all in tomorrow and I wouldn’t be surprised.’


Article from the Guardian


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