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Fashion world mourns designer Alexander McQueen

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "His talent had no boundaries," model Naomi Campbell says
  • Fashion designer Alexander McQueen, 40, found dead at London home
  • British police said death was not being treated as suspicious
  • McQueen had reputation for controversy, earning him title "enfant terrible"

London, England (CNN) -- Top British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who dressed stars from Sarah Jessica Parker to Rihanna to Nicole Kidman in bold shapes and colors, was found dead in his home here Thursday, a spokesman for his company said.

Though his reputation for controversy earned him the titles "enfant terrible" and "the hooligan of English fashion," British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman said his work "influenced a whole generation of designers.

"His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs. At one level he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashions shows that mixed design, technology and performance, and on another he was a modern day genius whose gothic aesthetic was adopted by women the world over. His death is the hugest loss to anyone who knew him and for very many who didn't," said a statement from Shulman on the magazine's Web site.

Asked about reports of McQueen's death, London's Metropolitan Police said a 40-year-old man was found dead at an address in Green Street, central London. They would not confirm his identity and said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

"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," said a statement issued from his company on behalf of the family of the designer, who was born Lee Alexander McQueen.

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"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."

According to a posting on McQueen's Twitter page, the designer's mother died February 2.

"i'm letting my followers know the my mother passed away yesterday," said an entry posted at 11:46 a.m. February 3.

"RIP mumxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx," it added.

One minute later, the message "but life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" was tweeted.

The account has not been verified by Twitter as officially coming from McQueen, although the page does link to his Web site.

His death comes just a week before the opening of the famed London Fashion Week.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened at the news of Alexander McQueen's untimely death," said a statement on the London Fashion Week Web site. "He was a unique talent and one of the world's greatest designers. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time."

Although McQueen was not showing a collection at the London Fashion Week, he was to unveil his ready-to-wear collection at the Paris fashion shows in March.

His 2010 spring/summer collection featured alien-inspired makeup and prints, according to Vogue, and "was lauded as his best by the fashion press." Dresses in that ready-to-wear line had exaggerated tiny waists and rounded hips, and models on the catwalk wore high club-like boots with them.

Model Naomi Campbell said she was "truly devastated" by McQueen's death.

"His talent had no boundaries and he was an inspiration to everyone who worked with him and knew him," she said in a statement released by her publicist. "This is a sad day to all who loved him around the world and my condolences are with his family. I will miss him so much, he will never be forgotten."

Designer Carolina Herrera called McQueen "one of a -kind" and said in a statement that he was "one of the most talented designers of his generation. This is a big loss for the world."

A manager at the Alexander McQueen store in New York said the shop would be closed Thursday and Friday in light of the designer's death.

Appearing on CNN Thursday before news of McQueen's death broke, singer Lady Gaga -- known for her ground-breaking fashion -- spoke of her admiration for the designer.

His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs.
--Alexandra Shulman, British Vogue
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"He is so -- He is on his own planet. He doesn't need to respond to trends or what anyone else is doing," Lady Gaga said in an interview on "American Morning. "He is so pure and from within and I -- he just generally inspires me ... and I love when I can wear his clothes and sort of synthesize for my fans what it means to me, because I want them escape through his clothes the way that I do."

According to a biography of McQueen on Vogue's Web site, he was born in 1970 in London's East End, the son of a taxi driver.

He trained in London's Savile Row at a company that made suits for Prince Charles. One anecdote that helped cement his bad-boy image claimed that he had once embroidered a suit for the Prince of Wales with a profanity sewn into the lining.

His clothing line was purchased in 1991 by stylist Isabella Blow, who became a close friend. She committed suicide in 2007, five years after his label was brought into the Gucci Group, based in Paris, France.

In an interview with CNN's Jim Bittermann in October, McQueen -- whose work was also worn by Sandra Bullock and Gwyneth Paltrow -- talked about how the traditional runway shows for fashion designers are changing.

His latest show was an invitation event for 1,000 people and was streamed live on the Internet.

"It's got to progress, and it's got to move on," he said. "I've been doing these shows for over 15 years now; I must have done about 60 shows. Even I get bored with the same concept, so this way, I can see a brighter future for fashion."

The designer was honored as a commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 and won numerous other awards in the fashion world.

 
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