“I wanted to work slowly, to make beautiful things with a high level of quality,” Gary James McQueen says of his inaugural collection of Italian silk scarves, “and to create a unique artwork, a collector’s item.”
In a tribute to his late uncle Alexander (Lee) McQueen, the 3D graphics expert (and former head of menswear textiles at his uncle’s eponymous fashion label) has created Life, Death and Rebirth, a series of silk-twill evening scarves (£250) and silk-chiffon squares (from £300). Anyone who visited the record-breaking Savage Beauty exhibition will recognise the familiar McQueen emblems incorporated into the textile designs: birds, Japanese art and eastern motifs (life), endangered species, the ivory trade (death) and the female nude (rebirth). The wolf’s head insignia used in the new company logo is adapted from the McQueen coat of arms. In another nod to his uncle a small number of the scarves will be sold exclusively at Anderson & Sheppard, the first Savile Row tailor the legendary designer worked for.
Later this summer, a feature-length documentary film on Alexander McQueen is due for worldwide release, and Gary James McQueen has been advising director Ian Bonhôte on his late uncle’s life. “There was only a small age gap of 10 years between us, so we were naturally quite close,” McQueen says. From an early age, the two shared a creative gene and a love of art and popular culture. “Lee used to babysit for us when we were kids and at that time I was obsessed with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We both loved to draw and create characters, to tell stories,” he says. The two went on to work alongside each other from 2005 until the fashion designer’s death in 2010.
“Lee was very reluctant to take on a family member, but he gave me the chance to do something I’d never considered. He gave me a direction,” the graphic designer says. Shrugging off any calls of nepotism, he continues: “I was treated like any other employee; it was a challenging environment – we all worked hard and put the hours in. We lived and breathed the theme of the season and were drawn into Lee’s world. That’s what was so amazing.”
Clearly there’s a certain pressure that comes with carrying the McQueen name forward. “It can be quite debilitating at times, and I would never put myself on the same pedestal as Lee,” says his nephew, “But he gave me the opportunity to express myself through fashion and I’m taking that forward, building my own stories using digital technology and trying to create art.”