British fashion designer Alexander McQueen found dead

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 11 2010 11:54 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2010 09:39 AM

LONDON, England (UPDATE) - Flamboyant British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home on Thursday, after apparently committing suicide, police and reports said.

Emergency services were called to the 40-year-old's home in central London and he was pronounced dead at the scene. A Scotland Yard spokesman said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

A spokeswoman for the bad boy designer, who rapidly built an international reputation for his outrageous creations, said: "Mr McQueen was found dead this morning at his home.

"We're devastated and I hope you understand that out of respect to his family and his colleagues we're not going to be making any further statement," she added.

The death was reported shortly after 10:00 am. Seven hours later, the body was brought out of his home on a stretcher, covered in a red blanket, and loaded into a private ambulance.

McQueen, a four-time winner of the British designer of the year award, was creative director of his own label which was bought out by Gucci and was one of Britain's most lauded fashion designers.

His close friend and fashion icon Isabella Blow killed herself three years ago at the age of 48. She died after telling friends she was going out shopping.

Tributes poured straight away after the death was announced.

Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said: "Lee McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers. His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs.

"His death is the hugest loss to anyone who knew him and for very many who didn't."

Designer Katherine Hamnett said: "He was a genius. What a terrible, tragic waste."

German couture legend Karl Lagerfeld told AFP: "I knew him very little but knew his work, which brought him a lot of success."

"I found his work very interesting and never banal," he added.

"There was always some attraction to death, his designs were sometimes dehumanised," Lagerfeld said.

"Who knows, perhaps after flirting with death too often, death attracts you."

Louise Wilson, one of his teachers at London's St Martin's College of Art and Design, told the BBC: "He was a joy to work with. He was a self-motivated individual. He was a superb cutter.

"In education you open the door, you hope they walk through. He walked through it."

She noted that he designed for all tastes and price levels, including for luggage manufacturer Samsonite and sportswear label Puma. "That's the beauty of his genius, is that he related to everybody," she added.

Born in London's East End into a working-class family -- his father was a taxi driver -- McQueen rose to fame after graduating from St Martin's in 1991.

McQueen cut his teeth as a tailor in Savile Row, where legend has it that he left his distinctive mark -- in the form of hand-written obscenities -- in the lining of a jacket for Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

After spells with designers Romeo Gigli and Koji Tatsuno, he started his own label and quickly became a controversial figure.

He designed the famous "bumster" trousers, which displayed the cleavage between model's buttocks in a parody of the low-slung trousers worn by workers on London building sites.

He even survived general condemnation over a collection featuring ripped clothing, entitled "Highland Rape", which was the first time anyone had chosen to send supposed rape victims down the catwalk.

After earning the title of best British designer of the Year in 1996, he moved to France, following another Londoner, John Galliano, as chief designer at Givenchy, where he continued to shock.

He toned down his tactics for Paris but enjoyed a further brush with notoriety when he included a disabled amputee model walking on carved wooden legs in a London show.

McQueen's position in the mainstream was assured in 2000, however, when the Gucci Group bought out 51 percent of his label, and the past decade has seen him launch flagship stores in New York, London and Milan.

He had a perfume line, launched his first menswear collection in 2004 and most recently launching a denim-based collection entitled McQ.

His death came days before London fashion week, and ahead of Paris fashion week next month.