Fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead this morning at his home in London, just hours before he was scheduled to show his Fall 2010 collection at New York Fashion Week. The UK’s Daily Mail is reporting his death as suicide by hanging, and notes that it comes just days after the death of McQueen’s mother. The influential designer (born Lee Alexander McQueen) was 40 years old.

McQueen dropped out of school at age 16 to pursue fashion, working his way through a variety of apprenticeships. After completing fashion school, he launched his own line and quickly made a name for himself with theatrical catwalk shows and heavily couture-influenced collections. He also gained a reputation as an “enfant terrible” in the mid-’90s for his frequent outbursts and provocative runway stunts, including sending models through rainstorms and rings of fire, staging a human chess game, and dressing a hologram version of Kate Moss.

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McQueen was hired to head up legendary couture house Givenchy in 1996 with only eight collections to his name—and, famously, promptly dismissed the label’s founder, Hubert de Givenchy, as “irrelevant.” He continued designing for the label until 2000, when a deal with Gucci allowed him to leave and concentrate on his own lines of ready-to-wear and menswear fashion, which he did until his death.

Named British Designer of the Year four times, McQueen was known for employing romantic and gothic imagery, impeccable tailoring, and dramatic presentation in his collections, making him a go-to designer for fashion-forward celebrities like Gwen Stefani, Sarah Jessica Parker, and kindred spirit Lady Gaga, who rocked the notorious “claw shoes” from McQueen’s Spring 2010 collection in her “Bad Romance” video.

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British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman said of McQueen, “He was the most brilliant designer of his generation and his influence can be seen in the way that women dressed over the last 15 years. It is an incredible loss not only for British fashion but for fashion the world over.”