New from art publisher Abrams, Love Looks Not With the Eyes: Thirteen Years with Lee Alexander McQueen collects 400 pages of previously unpublished backstage photographs of the late designer by his intimate Anne Deniau.
Anne Deniau was privy to McQueen behind-the-scenes for thirteen years and twenty-six collections, beginning in September 1997 and up to the final, just-posthumous show of March 2010. Love Looks Not With the Eyes follows the collections chronologically, with twenty-six chapters grouped into three sections, Egeria, Allegoria and Elegia. The book opens with a beautiful essay by Deniau about her personal relationship with Lee and her idea of the book. “I’m certain that if I had to write about Lee freely, at full aperture, I would not succeed, I would not find the words,” Deniau writes. “I wrote his story with photographs, not words. Photo-graphs. So right and so true. I wrote it using the light, his light.”
The book’s title is taken from a line in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that McQueen had tattooed on his bicep: Love looks not with the eyes, But with the mind. That reference, along with an epigraph of Lee McQueen’s own words—“There comes a time in your life when you focus solely on what you believe in right, regardless of what everybody else is doing.”—frame the book. This is will be an intimate portrait of a designer you know as Alexander by someone who got to know him as Lee.
We see Lee cutting fiercely through swaths of cloth, last-minute adjusting the models, wearing his pincushion on his sleeve. We see views from behind, iconic looks from their less iconic angles, models first stepping onto the runway.
Young death and suicide incite mythologizing. The funny thing about fashion is that the designer is already mythologized—McQueen especially, whose clothes were so grand and superhuman. McQueen’s designs were biotic in the sense that, immaculate and otherworldly, they they didn’t seem fashioned by a human hand. So here the memorializing is more like demythologizing. Love Looks Not With the Eyes is a glimpse at the pins and needles, the hands and mind, that crafted looks we love.