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A FAMILY AFFAIR

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Gary James McQueen is launching a range of made-to-order scarves and the first collection pays tribute to his late uncle, Lee McQueen. 

Gary James McQueen worked alongside Alexander McQueen up until his passing in 2010, and was trusted with many personal projects including the Chrome Skull artwork, which has become iconic as the face of the Savage Beauty Exhibition commemorating Alexander McQueen’s life work. 

Upon the passing of Alexander McQueen, Gary James McQueen felt personally compelled to continue his uncle’s legacy and family heritage. 

Taking influence from his late uncle and also using the instinctive qualities that run in his blood, he continues to establish himself and the Gary James McQueen Brand, which he believes encapsulates the McQueen spirit. 

We caught up with McQueen to find out more about what he is working on. 

Tell us a bit about who you are and where you are from. I’ve had a mixed upbringing. My mum was a single parent and a black cab driver, which required long days and nights out working, so my childhood was spent mainly split between my Nans..Lee would also babysit, which is where I was introduced to horror films from a very young age. This really helped to fuel my imagination. Lee would sketch and I loved to create and draw characters too. 

I moved to Germany when I was 12 and spent my teenage years in a German school which was a great benefit. I guess I picked up German methodical thinking there. 

What is your current role in the fashion industry? I see myself as a grey area really. At heart I am an artist and story-teller and fell in to fashion when I was given the opportunity by Lee to work as a textile designer on his menswear line. I soon realised how important story telling was in his shows and it just felt right. Working on a 3D canvas and creating wearable art that influences/ enriches an individual’s personality was a great buzz. 

I worked at Alexander McQueen for 7 years and learned a lot about the possibilities that could be achieved by the use of print to both enhance and also influence a silhouette of a garment. 

How would you describe your design aesthetic? When you are trying to create new and unique ideas and break away from the norm it can go either way. It could be totally unwearable or it can work out, the main thing for me is that I am trying new ideas and experimenting.. that’s what keeps me interested in what I’m doing. Most recently I am digitally sculpting my artwork and using the renders from these as the resulting textile print. I feel this will be the way of the future as this is a very powerful tool indeed. 

Where do you get your inspiration from when you create? Everything I create is influenced by a combination of things. I have a photographic memory for imagery and things I have seen. I would say it’s more of a feeling that pulls together a mixture of experiences (music I’ve heard, scenes from films, architecture, culture and art) that I think would work together well aesthetically to make something new. It’s more of a psychological approach.

What advice would you share with someone who wants to be a fashion designer? Find your personal aesthetic and stay true to it. I admire all kinds of artists for their personal approach and these are things that inspire me too. It’s a good idea to look at what other designers are doing and think how you would have approached that in Your own way.

What is your most memorable achievement that makes you proud of yourself as a designer? Starting my own label and every day is a step forward. I think one day I can look back and say I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but not yet.

If you had the opportunity to collaborate with a designer, who would that designer be and why? I think that Iris Van Herpen is great and we also share that aspect of embracing and utilizing the 3D digital world. Other than that I would love to have Lee back..I’ve grown so much more as a designer since his passing and would love to show him what we can achieve today with emerging technology. 

With Alexander McQueen as your mentor, how did that shape your future in the fashion industry? I have inherited Lee’s story telling aesthetic and my approach to an idea is similar to his thinking too, this is something he acknowledged and appreciated when I worked for him. Although I am currently only producing scarves, I do have an in depth knowledge of working with pattern pieces that I learnt from my time at Alexander McQueen and how to adapt print for jacquard and embroidery too.

What event propelled you to take on fashion, as opposed to sticking with graphic design? As I mentioned, I’m not really a graphic designer and see myself as digital artist. This really is a unique position to be in as most textile designers study fashion, as for with me fashion ended up being the platform to express myself through being given that opportunity by Lee..something I probably wouldn’t have considered. 

What is the inspiration behind Life, Death and Rebirth, your scarf collection? The Life, Death and Rebirth collection was really my tribute to Lee. 

Life is a celebration of Lee’s love of birds. I combined a modernist palette with a Japanese fantasy bird inspiration. When I design a print I most usually have a character/story in mind too, which I style my campaign shots according to. Death is based on the Ivory trade ensuing from Victorian colonial expeditions and the impact this has had on endangered species. The preservation of wildlife was something very close to Lee’s heart.

Rebirth represents the recycling of creative energy that I have inherited from him. This is depicted as bodies which appear to be dancing in a dark void. I drew inspiration from various pseudo scientific theories of quantum physics and Kubrick’s 2001 space odyssey.

How do you like to work? Do you have a technique or a certain mindset you have to be in? Sometimes I sit on ideas for a long time..partly because I like to let an idea evolve in my mind and get back to it, also I constantly have new ideas for an artwork pop in to my head, but only have two hands. I’ve got a long backlog of artworks to work on. I usually do a rough sketch.. nothing fancy, as I usually have the finished piece in my mind. A lot of the development is done as I work.

What is your most memorable moment in which you realized you are a fashion designer? I’m not sure, I think this is something that has always been inside me, but just didn’t realize until I was given that opportunity. I’m really quite good at trend predicting too and have loads of ideas for clothing. You have to have a good eye for proportion and silhouette and this is something that comes with being of an artistic mind I guess. 

What can we expect to see from the Gary James McQueen brand in 2019? I am currently looking for international retailers to stock my products. I have recently designed the scarf range for imperial jeweler Faberge and I am in talks with a shirt maker for a collaboration. I am currently producing a one of a kind Jewelry piece. Other collaborations are in the works, but are still top secret.

You can see Gary James McQueen’s amazing designs at www.GaryJamesMcQueen.com and IG @garyjamesmcqueenofficial 

Article by: Rob Bacon  @designerrobbacon – www.RobBacon.com 

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