There has been a lot of attention on Alexander McQueen and his career ever since his unfortunate death last year. As a part of this, there have been several books and television documentaries. A crew came into Anderson & Sheppard at the end of last year to talk to me about his time here.
Alexander McQueen joined here in 1984 or 1985. He didn’t have an introduction I don’t think, he just came in to apply in person. The firm’s policy at the time was to take young people who had not been to college as they were easier to train. Sixteen was a typical age for apprentices joining the firm.
He worked under a tailor called Cornelius O’Callaghan – one of the best coatmakers that the firm had. Cornelius was known as Con and was the strictest tailor at the firm. He checked his apprentices’ work thoroughly. Despite rumours that things were scribbled inside the lining of a coat for Prince Charles, Con wouldn’t have permitted that. And in fact the coat was recalled and checked after the story came out – nothing was found.
McQueen worked in a room with the tailor and two other female apprentices. He stayed with us for two years and in that time learned to make a forward fitting. It would normally take an apprentice three.
It’s fair to say he was very intense in all his conversations with the other tailors and was very passionate about what he was doing. He always wore Doc Martens, baggy Levi 501s, a thick black or grey roll-neck jumper and sometimes a checked jacket. He listened to house music and knew a lot about it, but no one was allowed to listen to music at work at that time.
Towards the end of the second year with us he started to take a lot of time off, saying his mother was not very well. His teacher was worried that he was not committed or reliable and decided that he was not suitable as a long-term Anderson & Sheppard coatmaker. He left and went to Gieves & Hawkes, where I think he stayed a month or two.