Anna Wintour Hails McQueen at Ritzy London Launch of Met Show

Anna Wintour
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at American Vogue magazine. Wintour attended a tribute at London’s Ritz Hotel, heralding a show of the late Alexander McQueen at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographer: Giuseppe Aresu/Bloomberg

Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer who took his own life last year, received a tribute at London’s Ritz Hotel, heralding a show of his work at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and a fundraising gala.

The press breakfast, held in a frescoed dining hall yesterday, was opened by Samantha Cameron, wife of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Its other patron was Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue.

Every year, the Met has a fundraiser coinciding with its spring fashion exhibition. This year’s gala -- to help finance and rebuild the museum’s Costume Institute -- is coupled with “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” (May 4-July 31). Gala co-chairs are actor Colin Firth, designer Stella McCartney and Wintour, a supporter of the bash since the mid-1990s.

Wintour, in a perfect bob and leopard-print coat, remembered McQueen as “unpredictable, original, imaginative, brilliant, fun.”

“There’s a lot of very commercial runway approaches: What was so exciting about going to a McQueen show was that you never knew what you were going to see,” she said in an interview, recalling instances when the catwalk was a pool of water, a wall of flames or a game of chess.

Devilish Horns

“That sense of theater and brilliance is something that will influence young designers all over the world for many generations to come,” she said, standing in front of a mannequin with devilish horns and a blazing-red gown.

Cameron flagged the gala in her brief speech. “I’m sure the party on the 2nd of May will be a very special night,” she said.

The exhibition, drawn mostly from the London-based McQueen archives, will feature about 100 examples of his designs, including the “bumster” trouser.

Showcased at the Ritz breakfast were other McQueen creations, including a dress made of oyster shells, and a brocaded military coat that McQueen worked all night on -- even though his design team told him it wasn’t doable. The team returned the next morning to find the finished coat on a mannequin, and McQueen asleep on the sofa with his dog.

Met Director Thomas Campbell emphasized that McQueen’s work was rooted in art history, and that he loved 15th-century Flemish painters such as Jan van Eyck.

“It’s just the sort of conversation between artists, periods, styles, even media that is always on view at the Met,” he said.

The museum exhibition is sponsored by the Alexander McQueen fashion house, American Express, and Conde Nast (publishers of Vogue).

The British designer, born Lee Alexander McQueen, was found dead at his London home on Feb. 11, 2010. Aged 40, he was killed by asphyxia caused by hanging.

Gucci Group NV, the luxury-goods arm of Paris-based PPR SA, bought a 51 percent stake in the Alexander McQueen fashion house in December 2000.

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