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Fashion world reacts to McQueen's passing

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
The storefront of Alexander McQueen is eerily empty the day of his passing.
The storefront of Alexander McQueen is eerily empty the day of his passing.
  • Thursday morning Alexander McQueen found dead in his London apartment
  • McQueen was considered a visionary and one-of-a-kind, industry notables said
  • McQueen was "inspiring, creative, genius designer," says designer Betsey Johnson

(CNN) -- The death of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen has drawn a veil of sadness over the first day of New York City Fashion Week.

As word spread Thursday morning that McQueen had been found dead in his London apartment, many heralded McQueen as a visionary who, at age 40, died too young.

"It's the most tragic, tragic loss for our industry," said Michelle Stein, the U.S. president of the Aeffe Group, which owns fashion labels Jean Paul Gaultier, Alberta Ferretti and Moschino. "He was so young and so talented. It is unbelievable."

McQueen's absence will undoubtedly be felt as New York fashion week moves on without him. He was expected to present his second line, McQ, at fashion week, which was a welcome surprise for New York fashion editors since the designer typically didn't present in New York. Thursday afternoon, the designer's New York publicist confirmed the show has been cancelled.

InStyle magazine's fashion director Hal Rubenstein said McQueen was a prodigious talent, and had a sense of daring that set him apart from other designers.

"He was an unbelievable showman. This wasn't someone who would ever dream of sending a collection down a white runway with you sitting politely in your seats," he said.

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Rubenstein recalled a Paris collection show of McQueen's in which models walked the runway with wolves; another show in which models danced in pairs like something out of a Depression-era dance marathon -- and one that used a 3-D hologram image of Kate Moss on the runway, giving the illusion that the supermodel was trapped in a prism.

On top of a flair for the dramatic, McQueen had incomparable skills as a tailor.

"There was an old-fashioned quality about his clothes in the sense that structure, shape and silhouette were so highly-defined," Rubenstein said. There's being brash, he said, and then there's having "the foundation of craft under the brashness to support your vision."

Even if you had no idea who Alexander McQueen is, you likely knew his work.

Whether it's high-profile work like the multitextured tartan gown Sarah Jessica Parker donned for the Costume Institute AngloMania Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006 or his wide array of accessories found everywhere, McQueen's work is well known and loved in the United States.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, said McQueen "brought a uniquely British sense of daring and aesthetic fearlessness to the global stage of fashion."

In his short career, Wintour said, "Alexander McQueen's influence was astonishing -- from street style, to music culture and the world's museums. His passing marks an insurmountable loss."

For eccentric designer Betsey Johnson, McQueen was a favorite, and "the most inspiring, creative, genius designer of now."

Even designers who did not know McQueen personally said they feel his loss.

Young design star Chris Benz, who was in the middle of a fitting when he spoke to CNN, said he "admired Lee and his work immensely," while Derek Lam, a fashion editorial mainstay, said that "the fashion world has lost a huge talent and it is heartbreaking."

In a statement, fellow Brit fashion designer and fashionista Victoria Beckham described McQueen as an icon. "McQueen was a master of fashion, creative genius and an inspiration. Today the fashion industry has lost a true great," she said. "He made all he touched beautiful and will be desperately missed. My heart is very much with his family and friends at this very sad time."

Joe Zee, creative director for Elle magazine, described McQueen in a tweet as "a kind soul and brilliant creative genius."

Fashion publicist and founder of People's Revolution, Kelly Cutrone, said McQueen's passing will "put a somber blanket over the spirit of New York," describing him as "the ultimate bad-ass designer."

McQueen, Cutrone said, "took punk, high-end luxury and rock 'n' roll and did it in a way that no one has seen since Vivienne Westwood. The world will certainly miss him as a person as well as him as a designer. It's a huge loss for the fashion and music world, and humanity as a whole."