In the hands of a great creator, fashion need acknowledge no bounds. But a designer needs the right soil in which to grow his unique blooms. And exciting breakthroughs are rarely the work of one pair of hands.

What makes good fashion great is what happens when a group of dedicated and skilled people, each highly versed in his own discipline, begin to bring their thoughts together. Visionary designers often attract a muse – someone so attuned to their way of thinking that their two minds function as one. It is rare, but when it happens it produces a sort of magic. This is what happened when Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow found each other.

It is a tale often told, with Blow buying his entire first collection and giving him intellectual, emotional and even spiritual support from the outset. But Blow’s influence was also practical, and she introduced her protégé to Nadja Swarovski, who opened his eyes to the power of crystal. Their meeting marked the union of imagination and materials that produced spectacular results. 

I was like a wild child when I got to Swarovski. I wanted to have everything, to touch everything. And I don’t just want to use crystal – I want to invent something new.

Throughout his career, McQueen loved to push craftsmanship to its creative limits. He achieved dazzling effects in some of the most powerful garments created in the past 20 years, and can surely be consid­ered a seminal figure of our age. From balsa wood skirts to dresses covered in fresh flowers, complex cut­ting techniques to the revolving spectacle of Sha­lom Harlow, McQueen’s pursuit of originality was boundless.  

Spurred on by Isabella Blow, aided by fellow designers Philip Treacy and Shaun Leane, and furnished with a magical array of  Swarovski (and other) materials, the cockney couturier left an indelible stamp on the world of fashion.