Fashion has been one of the most notoriously difficult industries for blacks to penetrate. In March 1966, Donyale Luna was the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue—the British edition. It would be almost a decade later before Beverly Johnson appeared as the first black model for American Vogue, finally gracing the cover with the August 1974 issue.
The work of Alexander McQueen, with its bold, distinctly provocative style, has shown the ways in which fashion and beauty transcend race. The most vocal among black models championing McQueen’s legacy is close friend, Naomi Campbell, the first black model to appear on Vogue Paris’s cover. Last spring, she paid tribute to McQueen’s style with her “Fashion for Relief Haiti” show, highlighting McQueen’s Manta dresses, alongside Kate Moss and Annabelle Neilson. He touched people regardless of race, and many black celebrities including superstars Rihanna, Kanye West, and Michelle Obama have expressed their appreciation for his designs and vision.
Photographer Nick Knight, well known for his “All Black” issue of Italian Vogue, put together a tribute video to McQueen, titled “To Lee, with Love” (sound familiar?) with an exclusive soundtrack by Björk. Many of these iconic pieces will be part of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for a show opening May 4, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” The accompanying catalog, published by YUP in association with The Met, is edited by curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, covering his entire career as a fashion designer, one of the most important of our times.
Ivan Lett is Online Marketing Coordinator for Yale University Press.