FASHION DESIGNER; Lee Alexander McQueen - what a rather flat, mundane description of a talent, a genius, and an inspiration. McQueen wasn’t simply a designer, he was an artist, a sculptor, a magician and, as ‘McQueen’, a new film released last Friday 8 June, illustrates, a provocative storyteller. Each of his fashion shows made us think twice, and think again, about history, about gender, forcing fashion to step away from the irrelevant and show the rest of the world that fashion has meaning.
‘McQueen’, co-directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, details the journey of Alexander McQueen (first name Lee), from his beginnings on Savile Row, through to his tenure at Givenchy, with an intimate, thrilling look at some of his most spectacular shows. Divided into chapters or ‘tapes’, titled after his most iconic fashion shows, there is no doubting the emotion that wells up inside you, from the beginnings of his career where grainy video footage tries to focus on a young McQueen, then just a sweet east end boy with a vision far beyond the streets of Stratford.
His shows, viewed via the medium of YouTube, brought tears to my eyes. Savage Beauty, the successful retrospective of his work at the Met and the V&A, re-imagined many of these shows, leaving me feeling closer to the craftsmanship. It evoked as strong a feeling on my second visit, as it had my first. But whilst his sense of humour reverberates throughout the film, capturing his confident, cheeky and innuendo laden chat, there is another, darker side to McQueen, that the film respectfully lays bare. Although his name to many will conjure up bumsters and skulls, through private video footage and interviews with close family and friends, the fragility of McQueen is revealed. As incredible as he was, and as brilliantly as his work still endures, transcending trends and eras, no one is immune to the pressure of creating upwards of 14 collections per year.
But this is not just a fashion film, to be devoured for its thought provoking and emotive clothing, and the dissection of his shows. McQueen’s work wasn’t simply fashion, it superseded that, and this film looks beyond his design work, made all the more engaging by Michael Nyman’s cinematic score. Instead, this is a film about that once in a generation talent, a man who maybe didn’t fit the archetypal fashion figure, but who existed within his own genius, a Londoner who sadly took his own life far too soon.