“I can’t work with any kind of restraints,” said the designer. “You can’t give me any boundaries.”
Nor does McQueen see any irony in the fact that his gowns cost thousands of dollars while his clothing for Target, which operates 1,658 stores in 48 states, will be priced under $129.99. That’s because McQueen knows what it’s like when money is tight. “I was brought up on this,” said McQueen, the son of a London taxi driver. “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”
McQueen’s collection for Target’s new Designer Collaborations initiative will launch in March. While the collection might appear to mirror the moves by H&M to link with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and, last week, Comme des Garçons, the Target line is actually an ongoing program aimed at bringing a series of established designers to the masses at low prices. Each collection will be in about 250 stores for a limited time. The entire line will also be available at target.com.
Designer Collaborations is a separate program from Target’s Go International, which is sold in nearly all the chain’s stores and focuses on young or emerging designers. Names the retailer has featured in the past include Luella Bartley, Proenza Schouler, Behnaz Sarafpour, Rogan and Richard Chai. Industry sources have estimated that Go International does more than $100 million in annual sales.
As the first participant in Target’s Designer Collaborations, McQueen is eager to expose a new customer to his richly nuanced and atmospheric aesthetic. The line has its roots in McQueen’s diffusion collection, McQ, which made its debut in January 2006 and ranges in price from $235 for a lace panel dress to $860 for a wool admiral’s coat. “The focus of this collection will be younger and more renegade, but always signature McQueen,” the designer said at the launch of McQ. His new venture is called McQ Alexander McQueen for Target.
“We’d always been approached by people like H&M and other high street [retailers] in England to do things,” McQueen said in a telephone interview. “I’m not very fond of following the norm. I didn’t want to follow Stella [McCartney] at H&M or Karl Lagerfeld at H&M. I didn’t see the point of it. I like to infiltrate an area that’s not really aware of me, as such.”
When Ed Filipowski, the publicist and events producer, suggested to McQueen that he work with Target, the designer said he was initially ambivalent. “I’ve never understood Target,” he said. But the idea of spreading his name appealed to the designer. “Apart from the East and West Coasts, my company doesn’t have any visibility in the U.S.,” he said. “I always liked the idea of people in the Midwest wearing my clothes. The idea of this upstart from London going where people haven’t heard of me, I think that was interesting to me. I think it’s quite adventurous of Target.”
Participating designers in the Target program will draw inspiration from a muse, creative element or collaborative partner. McQueen chose as his muse Leila Moss, the lead singer of The Duke Spirit (see sidebar). Moss’ style gave the clothes their rock ’n’ roll–punk vibe and hip Brit accents.