Tim Blanks On Alexander McQueen’s London Memorial Service
“There was no comfort zone with Alexander McQueen,” said Anna Wintour during her address at the designer’s memorial service in London this morning. But you’d imagine that even someone as intractable as Lee McQueen would be able to draw some succor—spiritual at least—from the chilly magnificence of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the venue for the event. If your soul didn’t soar when organist Donald Hunt sent Barber’s Adagio for Strings swelling into the cathedral’s mighty dome, maybe you haven’t got one.
There were plenty more soul-stirring moments, from the poignant memories of McQueen’s close friends Annabel Nielsen and Shaun Leane, to Michael Nyman’s performance of his theme from The Piano, to the London Community Gospel Choir’s exultant “Amazing Grace.” But nothing could match the perversely pulse-quickening (we were in church, after all) impact of Björk’s elegantly spare rendition of Billie Holliday’s “Gloomy Sunday.” She was dressed in a McQueen flight of fancy, the wooden wings from “13,” his unforgettable girl-and-the-robot show. Among the many others in the 1,500-strong crowd wearing the designer’s clothes, Naomi Campbell and Daphne Guinness (pictured) were especially striking.
Sam Gainsbury, who produced all of McQueen’s epics, also produced this sendoff. Her years of experience with the boy genius paid off in a service whose solemnity and ritual—right down to the solitary piper playing Braveheart at memorial’s end—would’ve pleased the designer. “But where was the punch-up?” Gainsbury wondered later. “There was always a punch-up.” Not in this cathedral.