McQueen wasn't born as fashion royalty. The son of an East London taxi driver, Lee Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children in a working class family. He left school at age 16 and went on to train as a tailor on Saville Row for years before entering Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1990. His entire 1992 graduation collection was purchased by the fashion designer Isabella Blow.
In 1996 he became head designer at the fashion label Givenchy. The same year he won the first of four British Designer of the Year awards. In 2000 he partnered with Gucci to open his own stores around the world.
"He was a technical master, he came from a pattern cutting background and his clothes were always extraordinarily crafted," said Prof. Louise Wilson of St. Martins College. "He could push the boundaries because he knew how to do it and he could do it himself. Therefore he took risks with the body and how he dressed it."
McQueen was devastated by the loss of his close friend and early champion Isabella Blow, who committed suicide in 2007. He was not expected to attend events at New York Fashion Week or the upcoming London Fashion Week, though his ready to wear line, McQ, was scheduled to be presented in New York today. That presentation has since been canceled.