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British fashion designer Alexander McQueen found dead

LONDON, Feb 12, 2010 (AFP) - Flamboyant British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home after apparently committing suicide barely a week after his mother died, police and reports said.

Emergency services were called to the 40-year-old's home in central London Thursday and he was pronounced dead at the scene, while Scotland Yard said the death was not being treated as suspicious. Reports said he had hanged himself.

A spokeswoman for the bad boy of British fashion, who rapidly built an international reputation for his outrageous creations, said: "Mr McQueen was found dead this morning at his home."

"At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief," said a statement on his label's website.

McQueen, a four-time winner of the British designer of the year award, was creative director of his own label which was bought out by Gucci and was one of Britain's most lauded fashion designers.

His death came days before London fashion week, and ahead of Paris fashion week next month.

Media reports said his mother Joyce died last week, and in a comment on McQueen's Twitter page on Sunday he wrote that he had had an "awful week, but my friends have been great, but now I have to somehow pull myself together."

The Times newspaper reported that his mother was to be buried on Friday.

McQueen's close friend and fashion icon Isabella Blow killed herself three years ago at the age of 48. Suffering from cancer and depression, she died of a drug overdose after telling friends she was going out shopping.

Tributes poured in after the death was announced.

German couture legend Karl Lagerfeld told AFP: "I knew him very little but knew his work, which brought him a lot of success. I found his work very interesting and never banal," he added.

"There was always some attraction to death, his designs were sometimes dehumanised," Lagerfeld said. "Who knows, perhaps after flirting with death too often, death attracts you."

British designer John Galliano, who works for Dior, said: "McQueen was daring, original, exciting.

"He was a fashion revolutionary."

Galliano added that he was saddened by the avant-garde designer's demise "following the death of his beloved mother."

Matthew Williamson, a fellow British designer, said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened by McQueen's death. He was a genius and his talent was second to none."

The death was reported shortly after 10:00 am. Seven hours later, the body was brought out of his home on a stretcher and loaded into a private ambulance.

Born in London's East End into a working-class family - his father was a taxi driver - McQueen rose to fame after graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, a hotbed of British fashion, in 1991.

McQueen cut his teeth as a tailor in Savile Row, where legend has it that he left his distinctive mark - in the form of hand-written obscenities - in the lining of a jacket for Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

After spells with designers Romeo Gigli and Koji Tatsuno, he started his own label and quickly became a controversial figure.

He designed the famous "bumster" trousers, which displayed the cleavage between model's buttocks in a parody of the low-slung trousers worn by workers on London building sites.

After earning the title of best British designer of the Year in 1996, he moved to France as chief designer at Givenchy, where he continued to shock.

McQueen's position in the mainstream was assured in 2000, however, when the Gucci Group bought out 51 percent of his label, and the past decade has seen him launch flagship stores in New York, London and Milan.

Britain's newspapers on Friday paid tribute to McQueen, with the Telegraph hailing him "one of fashion's brightest lights."

"No other British designer has turned such an idiosyncratic vision into their own internationally acclaimed brand," said the Independent.

Statement on Alexander McQueen's official website:

"On behalf of Lee McQueen's family, Alexander McQueen today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, has been found dead at his home. At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee's family."

"Lee's family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news and we hope the media will respect this."


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