Working as part of the Alexander McQueen Studio team during two years from 1994 to 1996, Ruti Danan was a key participant in the world of McQueen during some of the most pivotal moments of British Fashion and Culture in the early 90s. Ruti’s archive reflects a relentless dedication to preserving his legacy through expertise and personal account; a rare selection of items and memorabilia given to her during her time and work for the legendary designer.
With a degree in Architecture and background in both theatrical costume and fashion design while living in her native Jerusalem, Ruti spent time in the Sinai Desert conducting research and experimentation with fashion design. In 1988 Ruti moved to the UK working for British textile designer Nigel Atkinson and Japanese designer Michiko Koshino honing skills in tailoring and fabric design before launching her own label Ruti Danan Couture in London with clients as diverse as Thandi Newton, Natalie Portman, and Nicole Kidman.
Ruti first encountered Lee Alexander McQueen at the The Ritz in London when she posed as a buyer to gain entry to view his infamously lost “Taxi Driver” Collection in 1993. Behind the table of a seated and unassuming young man were a handful of unusually cut and printed garments, and the starting point of what Ruti recognised as design revolution which she knew she had to be part of.
After gaining the telephone number of Lee McQueen’s mother, a short call gave Ruti the address for McQueen’s studio. She quickly embarked to work alongside this new mysterious talent Alexander McQueen and within her first moments of walking into his studio was met with a sharp “Who are you?!?”, voiced by the designer himself. A slightly awkward exchange between a frustrated Lee dealing with an erroneous intern saw Ruti quickly insisting on making a calming cup of tea for McQueen and the intern being fired at the command, “You can fuck off! You can stay.” And Ruti landed the position which would change her life forever.
The next two years were the most rewarding and challenging work Ruti would do, and would push her personally, creatively, and emotionally. Her time with McQueen would see her fulfil mother-like support for McQueen in his lack of resources and funds for his work, exchanging inspiration during their sleepless nights of creation, and even assistance on multiple business trips to secure material and production support from Italian backers. Her most cherished time was her moments spent creating pieces for the collections often working all night listening to music and gossiping about love and relationships with Lee. Her unfaltering dedication meant she was quickly addicted, driven by an undescribable magnetism to help this newfound genius realise his visions. Ruti describes arriving speechless at the studio many mornings, where McQueen would often spend the night, only to find freshly finished frock coats cut like nothing she had ever seen. These now legendary moments Ruti experienced yielded collections like the controversially yet powerful “Highland Rape” from Autumn-Winter 1995, a transitional yet directional Spring-Summer 1996 show titled “The Hunger”, and finally in a pivotal career changing moment “Dante” from Autumn Winter 1996 shown both in London and later in New York.
Ruti poured her heart and soul into these collections, helping the burgeoning designer build the foundation of one of Britain’s most influential design legacies. This sacrifice came with physical and emotional tolls often resulting in blistered and bleeding fingers from intense beadwork, and back-breaking days of non-stop sewing. She acted as fit model, provided pattern-cutting and fabric sourcing, specialised finishing of garments, and even commercial adjustment to make pieces production-ready for Italian manufacturers.
A key moment in her time with McQueen was lovingly referred to as the “Farringdon Rescue” when McQueen had been locked out of the Farringdon Studios for failing to pay rent. The entire “Highland Rape” collection was mid-production and she relentlessly begged the landlord to let her in, eventually grabbing as many items as she could carry (along with the fit dummy). Her final collection with McQueen was “Dante” in late 1996 and based on its critical and commercial success landed Alexander McQueen the position of head designer at the French fashion house Givenchy with global luxury giant LVMH.
After her departure Ruti lovingly preserved her coveted items, storing each one like precious jewels being locked away as heirlooms. Like many studio team members at this time in fashion, most were rarely paid for their non-stop dedication, but instead given items for their priceless time and work. While Ruti briefly wore some articles, she was also quietly dedicated to meticulously preserving every stitch and hem to ensure their longevity especially since many were made by McQueen’s own hands. Her diligence was recognised when several of her unique archive pieces were chosen for both New York and London’s blockbuster exhibitions “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” and further in various high-profile fashion publication features.
With this unique offering, Ruti now looks to a global stage to allocate these items a new home and share her storied pieces so that future generations can celebrate the boundary-breaking legacy and genius of her comrade, mentor, and friend: Lee Alexander McQueen.