A new documentary about designer Alexander McQueen hints at drama to come
No one needs to be convinced of the genius of Lee McQueen. Since his death in 2010, the work of the designer behind Alexander McQueen has been widely showcased and celebrated, not least in the V&A’s Savage Beauty exhibition in 2015. Which means that the task left to McQueen, a documentary by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, is in some ways simpler — not to make a case for his importance, but to explain quite how he came to be (and then sadly, not).
Really, it’s astonishing. McQueen was a tubby young boy from London’s East End, who took up tailoring at his mother’s suggestion and soon found he had natural flair. Fast-forward through Central Saint Martins, a transformative friendship with fashion maven Isabella Blow, a controversial stint at Givenchy, and some of the most outlandish and memorable catwalk events the fashion world had ever seen, and it’s a rags-to-riches story of the highest order.
What the film has, however, aside from interviews with McQueen’s family, friends and colleagues, is a wealth of archive material that shows the designer at work and play — larking about, smiling, and generally reminding us that the Nineties were rather a laugh. But also, in his throwaway comments and asides, it shows the darkness brewing inside him, as well as in his collections: the sense, perceived and real, that others were trying to take him down; or that he wasn’t getting the credit he deserved; or that his future was not in his control. Ultimately, and tragically, he ensured that it was.
McQueen is out on 8 June
Alexander McQueen with model Shalom Harlow at the designer’s SS ’99 ‘Show 13’, London, September 1998