I’d forgotten about the so-called ‘bumsters’, trousers so low-cut they left half your bottom on display. And the towering platform shoes that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Not to mention his love of the casually displayed nipple.
But then Alexander McQueen (right), one of the bad boys of fashion, has been dead for eight years now and would be in danger of being forgotten were it not for hugely popular museum shows such as Savage
Beauty and now documentaries like this one, simply titled McQueen (15A) ★★★★.
Made, clearly with love, by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, and with music from one of McQueen’s favourite composers, Michael Nyman, it’s the story of the plump, working-class boy from London whose love of clothes and design would eventually see him installed as head designer at both Givenchy and Gucci, as well as having a ground-breaking and hugely successful label of his own.
It’s the story of a man who loved good tailoring but also loved to rip up the established conventions of the fashion world in his desire both to create and to shock, drawing the frequent criticism that his clothes were both misogynistic and unwearable. And yet you don’t have to know very much about fashion to see that there is beauty as well as genius here.
Success made him wealthy, slim, world-famous and difficult to work with. But it didn’t make him happy, as this eventually sad and moving story makes clear. As one of the contributors, plucked from a mix of family and close colleagues, puts it: ‘The more money he had, the more unhappy he was.’
Under relentless pressure to keep churning out headline-grabbing collections, using drugs and devastated by the death of his mother, McQueen committed suicide the day before her funeral. He was 40.
This film is a fascinating tribute, adroitly tip-toeing its perilous way through creations and collections, some destined to become fashion classics while others smacked of ‘emperor’s new clothes’. Sometimes almost literally.
It’s an intimate portrait and a must-see for anyone interested in fashion but, as more of an interested bystander, I would have enjoyed an outside voice or two offering a little historical perspective on McQueen’s brilliant but tragically short career.