“I don’t want to do a cocktail party. I’d rather people left my show and vomited. I prefer extreme reactions. I want heart attacks. I want ambulances.”

Alexander McQueen didn’t live by the rulebooks. He ripped them up and rewrote them; his path wasn’t linear or conforming, and neither were his creations.

Starting life in a council flat in the industrial borough of Lewisham at the turn of the 1970s, McQueen is hailed as the greatest, unlikely fashion success story. Surrounded by the darkness, grit and drama of East London, a penchant for beauty and creativity in the unexpected sparked early on, which later flourished into a defining troupe throughout his work. The birds of prey he watched circling the railway as a child resurfaced again and again in his aesthetic.

McQueen’s twenty-year career – which included a tenure as Chief Designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 – was populated with brilliance and tragedy, addictions and formidable friendships. Isabella Blow, who became hooked on “Lee” McQueen upon sight of his graduate collection, was a key figure, muse and confidante in his life; together, they defined what it means to be an iconic duo.

Following his tragic suicide in 2010 (three years after Isabella also took her own life), his legacy has been kept alive with a profusion of documentaries and retrospectives. Notably, the V&A’s theatrical Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition (that showcased iconic designs including Dress, No. 13 from Spring/Summer 1999 and the 30cm-high ‘Armadillo’ boot from Plato’s Atlantis Spring/Summer 2010) sold more than 480,000 tickets, making it the most popular exhibition in the museum’s history.

With The Illustrated History of A Fashion IconSmith Street Books continues to shine a light on the legacy of McQueen, capturing all phases of his journey – from his childhood to his collections and everything in between – via illustrations by Sydney-based R.Song and words from London-based Tom Rasmussen.

Completely captivating, it’s a coffee table tome you’ll inhale in one sitting and return to time and time again.

Dive into the creative wonderland of Alexander McQueen. Shop the book here: