As a teen at boarding school in Kent, England, Annabelle Neilson hitched her uniform skirt to “unreasonably short” heights, cut off the sleeves of her shirts, wore only “mod, witchy” shoes, and, “in a final act of defiance,” chopped off her waist-length hair “so that I looked like a hedgehog.” Small wonder that she counts Joan of Arc as a style icon and that Alexander McQueen saw in Neilson a muse and a soulmate. “He liked my wackiness—and the fact that when I went out, I made his outfits live.” And then some: After hitting the catwalk for his fall 2007 Paris show, she grabbed a black sequined dress with a sheer back off the hanger to head out for the night. “I was buck naked in the back, and I went to these parties and ended up walking down the middle of the street. And he was like, ‘Oh, my God. Please don't fuck the dress up!’” In 2001, when Neilson decided to race a car across the Himalayas, McQueen designed catsuits for her. “One was white, with McQUEEN stitched on the back in pink leather and pink piping down the side and a pink belt. I was in a zebra car. Honestly, they'd never seen anything like it.”
Rest in Peace to a true original, @annabelleneilson1.
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Photography: Tim Walker
W magazine, November 2012