cover image Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin

Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin

Andrew Wilson. Scribner, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7673-6

Journalist Wilson (Mad Girl’s Love Song) presents a thorough and emotionally compelling exploration of the life, work, and inner demons of fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Wilson recounts McQueen’s childhood in East London, where he was sexually abused by his brother-in-law. The abuser also battered his sister, Janet; McQueen admired her fortitude, and she was his earliest and most prevalent muse. Wilson follows McQueen through the early stages of his career, including a short stint as a tailor’s apprentice on Savile Row and his education in fashion design at London’s Central Saint Martins, where he staged his first show, “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims,” in 1991. It was followed by the show “Nihilism,” which saw the debut of McQueen’s now signature “bumsters” look. Wilson paints vivid portraits of McQueen’s family and friends, including his lifelong friend BillyBoy and stylist Isabella Blow, whose death, along with the death of McQueen’s mother, contributed to the decline of his mental state leading up to his suicide. Interviews with friends, family, and former lovers allow Wilson to capture McQueen’s many facets, from his “cackling fishwife laugh” to his dramatic shifts in temperament and “near-pathological obsession with the macabre,” making this a fully realized representation of a complex and enigmatic artist. Photos. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (U.K.). (Sept.)