Gary James McQueen was introduced to the world of fashion via his late uncle, Lee, he worked on the men's ready-to-wear collections from 2005 at Alexander McQueen until Lee's untimely death in 2010. He's featured on the Netflix documentary McQueen and this week, Gary James McQueen speaks to The Edit Man London...
All of us know the name McQueen, but tell us about yourself and your background?
I wanted to study fine art but ended up on a graphic design course for which I completed my HND (2001). After graduating my first job was with a publishing company where I started as a junior. The pay was minimum, but I learnt a lot about the print process and resolution quality. I worked there for 3 years until the company went on to liquidation and found myself working at various dead-end warehouse jobs.
How did you get working in Fashion?
One day (2005) I got a call from Lee (Alexander McQueen), as a position had opened on his then new Menswear line for a textile designer, he knew I was struggling for work and was willing to give me a go at it.
I didn’t have a clue about fashion, but have always been very good at adapting to different situations and learned very quickly how the whole process works. Building stories was something that I’ve always been good at from a young age and I learned how to use fashion and textiles as a way of expressing these ideas. Within 6 months I knew how to create repeat prints and also engineer to the pattern pieces for both print and woven artwork.
What was it like working for the great Alexander McQueen?
Lee inspired everyone to push the limits with their design development. He always wanted to see new ideas even if they were considered outlandish, as long as it was something he hadn’t seen before that was the main thing. You’ve got to have a balance of acknowledging and being inspired by the past, but then taking those ideas as inspiration and not influence by doing something new. The studio environment was always very creative with lots of experimentation going on all the time.....For example, naked interns rolling around in paint to create Yves Klein inspired artwork is one example lol.
What can you tell us about him as a person and his character?
Lee loved to shock people and was always joking about in the early days. He had a complex personality ranging from juvenile to psychotic (in a fun kind of way) and you never knew what you was going to get..usually a mixture of both. He was a kind and thoughtful person, but could switch like that, but always came back to make sure you was alright with a pat on the back afterwards.
Was there ever a pressure to live up to the name?
I’ve never felt any pressure to live up to the McQueen name as I’m not trying to be better or equal what my uncle had achieved, but I do share his love of story telling and do what comes natural to myself through an inherited feeling to my work which you might call “The McQueen spirit”.
You did 14 seasons for Alexander McQueen – what was your biggest highlight?
Every season was different with new creative avenues to explore every six months, so it’s hard to pin point one that stands out most. Just seeing the collection that you have worked on for that six months sent down the catwalk for the public to experience is always the highlight.
What was the inspiration behind scarves being the centre piece of your label?
Starting your own brand is costly, and although I wanted to create clothing straight away, the safest bet and the one thing I knew I could do to the highest quality with my funds available was scarves. Even something as simple as a square of fabric takes a lot of consideration, you’ve got to consider the weight, construction (in my case 14 momi silk twill), ink penetration of the artwork and hand finishing. My debut collection was a tribute to my uncle named “Life, Death, Rebirth”.
Do you consider yourself an artist, or a fashion designer?
I think all good fashion designers are primarily artists and use fashion as a platform or process to express your artistic visions. Using art as a foundation is the only way to be totally free to create new and inspiring ideas, the fashion part is the final result.
What can you tell us about your own individual style?
I usually dress for comfort (combats with a loose T). I treat myself as a worker. I have no ego just lots of hard work and getting the job done.
What’s your most Grailed item?
I don’t own many high valued items, but I have a nice pair of Tom Ford sunglasses, a few Alexander MCQueen coats and love aftershaves such as Creed or G.F Trumper.
If you had to pick 3 items on The Edit Man London website, what would they be?
The Yeezy 700 Azael are pretty nice styled with a Supreme Full split crewneck and the LV monogram soccer ball bag is pretty cool too.
Supreme Split Crewneck below:
You’re teasing us with the idea of a Streetwear capsule, what could we expect to see from you?
My streetwear range is called G McQueen symbolised by a radiating “G”.
I have already developed a new bandana aimed at all the “G’s” out there. This is available in 4 colour ways at the moment and I am now working on new 2 piece outfits based on the African Dashiki. A really easy going piece that can be worn from day into the night where a tracksuit has its limits. I’m looking at a silk satin base with my textiles to make these contemporary desirable pieces.
We're still in concept phase at the moment but the Streetwear collection will be exclusively released on www.theeditmanlondon.com
McQueen's Bandana's below:
Available at: www.garyjamesmcqueen.com/bandanas
You started your own label and carry the McQueen torch as it were. What’s next for Gary James McQueen?
I’m going to continue building the collections venturing more in to clothing and pushing new ideas there.
Alongside this I also create digital artwork and sculpture, which has had a lot of interest from art dealers in the US. I am producing a jewellery piece too, which I will be revealing this summer.
And as mentioned above, expect me to be releasing new a Streetwear capsule to be released with The Edit Man London.
Photo Credit: @saneseven
Gary James McQueen: www.garyjamesmcqueen.com
Nice article Edit Man, good read! Please keep the coming!!
This was extremely interesting to read. Cannot wait for the Streetwear capsule!
Interesting read. Another good editman article 🙌🏻
I always wondered why he started with scarves! Now I know, great article thanks 👍🏼