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McQueen's death hurts London fashion scene

The Associated Press, Friday, February 12, 2010, 8:38am (PST)

LONDON (AP) -- Yes, there are other big names: Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith come to mind. But the sudden death of Alexander McQueen leaves a gaping hole at the center of London's fashion universe.

McQueen was Britain's shooting star, the comet who helped make London cool again in the 1990s after a long fashion drought, and his up-from-the-bootstra ps personal history helped inspire others.

The son of a London cabbie, the youngest of six siblings, McQueen was a product of the streets, not a posh dilettante with a wealthy family to back his fashion whims.

Now he is gone, due to an apparent suicide that has not been confirmed by his family or the police. And fashion insiders don't see any heir apparent to the enfant terrible who turned catwalk shows into memorable works of performance art.

"I don't see anyone on his level," said Kate Brindley, spokeswoman for the Liberty store, where sales of McQueen's signature scarves have increased 14 fold in the last day. "His vision was completely unique, that's why he was so successful commercially and so well respected in the industry."

She said McQueen forged a path for other emerging designers, urging them by example to remain true to their visions. His impact was magnified, she said, by the fact that he kept his businesses based in London even though he showed his work primarily in Paris.

"He's still very much a British designer, in terms of his rebellious feeling," she said. "He created this tremendous international fashion brand, but he never lost sight of what made him who he was."

The McQueen store in central London remained closed Friday, with lilies and roses in the window in memory of the designer. Some devoted mourners also placed flowers and candles outside the shop on London's upscale Bond Street.

Plans continued for London Fashion Week, set to begin next Friday, but the mood is expected to be somber as many offer tributes to McQueen, whose early London shows helped put the event week on the international fashion calendar.

"His death will cast a real pall over London Fashion Week," said Hadley Freeman, fashion columnist for the Guardian newspaper. "He was a real inspiration to young fashion students. There is not a single student in the last 10 years who didn't cite him."

She said McQueen's working-class background and his liberal use of street and punk influences had a democratizing effect on British fashion.

"He hadn't shown in London for a while now, but he was so intrinsically associated with British fashion, he was the reason Britain got kickstarted, got cool, in the '90s," she said.

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