The fashion world was left reeling tonight by the death of celebrated British designer Alexander McQueen.
The 40-year-old’s body was discovered at his €745,000 flat in London’s West End after he apparently committed suicide.
Sources tonight said it was believed McQueen had been found hanged.
The creative genius, whose full name was Lee Alexander McQueen, was mourning his mother, Joyce, who died 11 days ago.
His death came just days before London Fashion Week, which is due to open on February 19, and as final preparations were made to unveil his spring collection.
A spokeswoman for the designer said his friends and colleagues were “devastated” by the tragic news.
His design company added: “We are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee’s family.”
News of McQueen’s death spread quickly around the global fashion industry, provoking an outpouring of tributes.
Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said: “Lee McQueen influenced a whole generation of designers. His brilliant imagination knew no bounds as he conjured up collection after collection of extraordinary designs.
“At one level he was a master of the fantastic, creating astounding fashion shows that mixed design, technology and performance and on another he was a modern-day genius whose gothic aesthetic was adopted by women the world over.
“His death is the hugest loss to anyone who knew him and for very many who didn’t.”
Designer Katherine Hamnett said: “He was a genius. What a terrible, tragic waste.”
Dame Vivienne Westwood was “incredibly sorry” to hear the news.
Matthew Williamson said: “I am shocked and deeply saddened by McQueen’s death. He was a genius and his talent was second to none.
“Like many others, I always cited him as a hugely inspirational leader of world fashion. He will be greatly missed.”
A spokesman for model Kate Moss said: “Kate is shocked and devastated at the tragic loss of her dear friend Lee McQueen. Her thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “Alexander McQueen made an outstanding contribution to British fashion.
“His extraordinary talent and creativity mean that his designs are adored not just by followers of haute couture but lovers of great style everywhere.
“This is a great loss to one of Britain’s most successful industries and to the design world more widely.”
A spokeswoman for the British Fashion Council said: “We are deeply saddened at the news of Alexander McQueen’s untimely death.
“He was a unique talent and one of the world’s greatest designers. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.”
A spokesman for the magazine publisher Conde Nast described the news as “so sad” and said the company was “quite devastated” by McQueen’s death.
Writing on his Twitter page, McQueenWorld, last week, McQueen told followers his mother had died.
He wrote: “i’m letting my followers know the my mother passed away yesterday if it she had not me nor would you RIP mumx”
A minute later he added: “But life must go on!”
On Sunday McQueen wrote: “sunday evening been a f****** awful week but my friends have been great but now i have to some how pull myself together...”
The fashion designer’s body was taken from his flat in Green Street, off Park Lane in Mayfair, shortly before 5pm.
As the vehicle drove away, McQueen fan Daniel Hernandez, who is from Los Angeles but lives in Bayswater, waved goodbye and shouted: “Thank you”.
In 2007, McQueen was left deeply shocked by the suicide of his close friend Isabella Blow.
The 48-year-old fashion star, who helped launch his career, killed herself at her country home in Gloucestershire, England after telling friends she was going shopping.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We were called by London Ambulance Service at about 10.20am this morning to reports of a man found dead at an address in Green Street, W1.
“He is believed to be 40 years old and from London. Next of kin have been informed; however, we await formal identification before releasing the name of the deceased.
“A post-mortem examination and inquest will take place in due course. The death is being treated as non-suspicious.”
Victoria Beckham spoke today of her sadness at the loss of a "creative genius" and said he would be "desperately missed".
She said: “McQueen was a master of fashion, creative genius and an inspiration. Today the fashion industry has lost a true great. An icon of all time. He made all he touched beautiful and will be desperately missed.”
Beckham, who is now a designer herself, added: “My heart is very much with his family and friends at this very sad time.”
Broadcaster Jonathan Ross said: "It's horrible news. I never knew him but I thought he was an inspirational, brilliant designer. He was one of the best that we had."