British designer Alexander McQueen: From punk to classic

Alok Vaid-Menon, CNN • Updated 5th November 2018

( CNN ) — No one is guaranteed what their body can do. If you’re too old or too young. If you’re strong or too weak.

Designers like Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier and Stella McCartney owe their career, in part, to balancing aesthetics with care. For both professional and personal reasons, breathing new life into an old tradition can be a challenge.

“Many of my favorite designers are men, men who have reworked tradition,” Vaid-Menon told CNN Style . “It’s not one thing, it’s a different sensibility, approach. There’s a different way to discover things. Women from the 1980s are not in the same boat. They are still forever the same person they were in the 1980s.”

The designers he mentions go about it differently, too. McQueen created never-ending mannish clothes, and Gaultier shows women how to be male. Meanwhile, McCartney offers women a chance to explore new physical possibilities, often with ingenious combinations of looks.

1 / 14 Soon after his achievement as the world’s first recipient of the Baroque Style Masters of Fashion and Art award, Francesco Scognamiglio emerged as one of the emerging talents of the couture house Saint Laurent Paris. His spring collection ‘Every Object is a Beatle’ comprised elements directly associated with the band. (Photo: Maureen Martin/AP)

Ahead of his latest show at London Fashion Week, Vaid-Menon spoke with CNN Style about drawing inspiration from, and the importance of, having a sense of humor.

– What draws you to certain trends?

Alok Vaid-Menon: There’s a tried and tested process that’s always embedded in contemporary fashion. Every season, there’s a new play on emotion, new play on narrative. I’m a punk at heart, so the punk spirit will always be intrinsic in what I do. I’m also obsessed with pattern and color.

– Do you have a tailor at home?

AVM: My favourite book is “The Maker Who Wore His Own Clothes” by Albrecht Durer. He kept sewing while serving as a diplomat. That’s the kind of attitude I would like to instill in my collection. People have had a dream of owning their own tailor for years and years and then a fashion designer comes along and says, “No, do you want your own tailor?” And the answer is always, “No, no, no.” And then they start seeing other people that have that capability at home. That’s a bit like fashion: It’s a dream come true and then you realize it’s not quite what you want.

— How would you define your own personal style?

AVM: My personal style really isn’t a style at all. I do what I do because I enjoy the work and the process. That’s ultimately where the knowledge and love comes from, not style. If you don’t make it better for yourself and for the environment, then that’s your personal style. The work is where the fashion comes from.

– What message do you hope to communicate with your own collections?

AVM: I’m a big fan of casting. I’ve been casting myself for the past seven or eight years. I’ve literally been a part of those shoes and I’m still in my shoes today. And if somebody isn’t wearing the designer’s clothes then their shoes have already been out there. I’ve been part of creating that story, that mythology.

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