A LEGACY OF SKULLS: GARY JAMES MCQUEEN

Rhiannon D’Averc spoke to Gary James McQueen about his silk scarf range, future plans, and the legacy of working with his late uncle, Alexander McQueen.

Gary James McQueen does not resemble his late uncle so much that you might notice him on the street. However, once you are given the name, it’s easy to spot him from across a crowded room. The similarities become much clearer with a closer look.

Far from living in the shadow of a more famous family member, Gary has embraced that legacy. He worked with Lee Alexander McQueen at his eponymous label while the iconic designer was still alive, creating digital artworks to be printed onto fabric for the clothing.

That is still where his skills lie, and he has become celebrated in his own right for his ability to create interesting prints from lenticular images and still scenes. He has nothing but respect for his uncle, saying that he wants “to carry on his legacy”.

“I left the brand after his death,” he tells me. “I felt it got a bit diluted.”

It’s clear to see why he feels that way. The bold silk scarves and allover body prints he is creating now feel more like a true successor to the brand than the direction it has taken in recent years. They call up references to the iconic skull prints with the use of bones to create floral patterns, and the S/S ’10 Plato’s Atlantis collection in the manipulation of pattern across the fabric.

His collection of three main designs is called Life, Death, and Rebirth. Each of these elements is represented in a scarf print, all of them unique and eye-catching.

“People think it’s bad luck to wear death,” he smiles as he shows me Death, the aforementioned floral bone pattern. “But you don’t see that it’s skulls until you get close up, which I think is really nice.”

There’s a clashing of the modern and the traditional in Life, a celebratory image picked out in blacks, greys, whites, and reds. Then there is Rebirth, accompanied by a mask which covers the whole face. This one is all about calling forth spirits from another dimension, bringing them back to a physical body.

“I had the triangles made and then attached them all individually together with jump rings,” Gary says, pointing out salient areas on the mask. Indeed, it’s clear that he has a strong hand in every single thing that is created for his range, from the prints and the materials right through to the promotional imagery.

Three large poster images surround us, each one representing one of the prints. He tells me, with clear pride, that he art directed everything himself. He chose the model, who appears in all three shots, and the campaign photography was completed in two days across different locations.

So, what of his famous name? “It’s a double-edged sword,” he tells me with a grimace. “Stores don’t want to step on the McQueen brand.”

There are evidently difficulties with stocking the scarves made by two brands which both appear to have the same name. But despite this, Gary is obviously not open to entertaining the idea of dropping the moniker. For him, it’s a source of pride – and perhaps an avenue for him to bring that legacy and style back to the McQueen name.

When I ask him whether he considers himself a designer or an artist, he pauses – but his answer is resolute. “I make wearable art,” he says, glancing around the room at his creations with a nod.

Prepare to see more from this name in the very near future. There are sure to be kimonos coming out soon with the print, something that has me very excited, and there’s also a super-secret project with Faberge that no one is allowed to talk about just yet. One thing is clear: this man is not going anywhere until he has made his mark.

Shop the collection and more at garyjamesmcqueen.com.

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