THIS is a beautiful documentary about fashion designer Alexander McQueen who took his own life at the tender age of 40, just before his mother’s funeral.
Although McQueen loved to shock the fashion world with his magnificent and outrageous dress designs, there was much more to this talented individual as the documentary – by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui – sensitively reveals.
Born into a working class London family, Lee Alexander McQueen never once forgot his roots as he made his mark in the fashion world. Learning his trade on Savile Row and spotted by fashion writer Isabella Blow in the early 1990s while he was studying at Central Saint Martins, he doted on mother Joyce (as well as his dogs). Indeed, it was his mother’s death that proved the final straw for McQueen, worn down by a relentless workload and issues in his personal life (depression, caused by being diagnosed HIV-positive).
The documentary contains footage of his parents, his wonderful sister and interviews with those who tutored him at Central Saint Martins, worked with him at Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, and his boyfriends. It is not all complimentary, covering some of the fallouts he had with friends (Blow in particular) and his dependence on drugs. But you cannot help but admire his brilliance, imagination and willingness to cock a snook at the establishment.
Some of the documentary makes for thrilling viewing, especially the clips that remind us of his defining career moments.
For example, September 1998 when former ballerina Shalom Harlow stepped out on stage in a white trapeze dress at Gatliff Road Warehouse in London and proceeded to be sprayed with black and yellow paint by two robots. Visceral. Sensual. And two years later when at the same venue fetish writer Michelle Olley was revealed in all her glory as a glass box she was lying in shattered. Moths fluttered as a naked Olley, masked, breathed into a tube. Breath-taking. Shocking. McQueen off to a tee.
This is an important film about a genius who despite enjoying huge success could never quite keep his demons at bay. It is showing at both London’s ICA and Prince Charles Cinema.