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Caged ravens, wolves straining on leashes and “chillingly misogynist” shoes were all expressions of McQueen’s pain. “Yet his imagination and showmanship never drowned out his fabulous tailoring,” Menkes said. “He was an artist who just happened to work with clothing.”
In a speech peppered with early memories of McQueen’s penchant for last-minute cancellations and his “often savage tongue,” American Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour called the designer a “complex and gifted young man” who worked out his dreams and horrors on fashion’s stage. “He never appeared much at ease with himself, and he didn’t care about the politics of fashion,” she said. “The world that he loved was inside the atelier.”
Wintour also recalled his impact on the fashion world at large. After he introduced his now-famous “bumsters” in 1996, “Everybody lowered their trousers everywhere,” she said. “His talent soared like the birds of his boyhood above us all.”
In her tribute, Annabelle Nielson admitted that her friend of 18 years could be “a little tricky,” but that he was the best man she had ever known. “He was loved by so many,” she said, “but felt loved by so few.”
After the service, the congregation — some of them smiling, others wiping away tears — gathered in the sunshine to listen to the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland assembled on the cathedral steps. The musicians were dressed in black — with flourishes of red tartan — and the feathers on their tall, brimless hats fluttered in the breeze as they played.
Nyman, who played an acoustic piano solo during the memorial, remembered McQueen as a gracious man. “He commissioned a piece from me for the Paris collection where Kate Moss appeared as a hologram,” Nyman said after the service. “He never used it, and he called me to apologize, and asked me to go to the Bond Street store to pick something out for myself, which I never actually did. That was my only contact with him. It was a very moving experience to play today.”
“All of it was absolutely fitting, just beautiful, and typically Lee didn’t show up,” said Guinness with a smile from beneath her black veil, referring to the late designer’s tendency to cancel at the last minute, or pull a no-show. “I was like ‘Lee, where are you? You should be here.’”
“It was just beautiful and he would have loved it,” said Campbell, tottering on sky-high McQueen heels.
Like many female guests, Parker was decked out in McQueen. “This is new, this is fairly new,” she said, referring to her billowing cream dress and a rib-hugging black tuxedo jacket.
“It was perfect,” a rueful Parker said of the service. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world. It was just a wonderful way to remember him. It was just beautiful.”
Moss said she was moved by the service. “He would have loved it,” said the model, who was dressed in a black leather skirt and black jacket. She added that her abiding memory of McQueen was “his infectious laugh. We laughed together all the time.”