Late British designer Alexander McQueen liked to tell his story through his audacious fashion, so getting those who knew him to speak about his personal life proved a challenge for the makers of documentary McQueen.
The film, which got its world premiere at the Tribeca film festival this week, tells McQueen’s story through testimonials from his closest friends and family as well as personal archives going back to his early days and clips from his fashion shows.
“We had to prove to people we had the right intention,” says Ian Bonhôte, who co-directed the film with Peter Ettedgui.
“It was a lot of hoops to go through to convince people. But, you know, suddenly you just opened one door and then one door to lead to another one,” he says.
McQueen, who made waves with collections like “Highland Rape” and “McQueen’s Theatre of Cruelty,” committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 40 at what many considered the height of his career.
“He often said, ‘If you want to know me, look at my work; my shows are autobiographical. They’re about what I feel about the world and how I experience the world.’ So it made a great deal of sense to try and tell the story of his life through his work,” Ettedgui says.
Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, by contrast, was a relatively obscure figure for 30 years until she made headlines worldwide for designing a stunning handmade yellow gown with a 16-foot-long (4.9-metre-long) train worn by Rihanna to the 2015 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala.
“Even though she comes from the most populated country in the world, she has obviously lived in this relative isolation,” said Pietra Brettkelly, director of documentary Yellow is Forbidden, also showing at Tribeca.
The title derives from Guo being told as a child that the colour yellow was reserved for China’s emperor and could not be worn by commoners.
“She decided to take that moment, that Rihanna moment, and really use it in an international release of her and her brand and her work,” Brettkelly says.
A third fashion film making its debut at Tribeca was The Gospel According to André , about the life and career of Vogue magazine’s former editor-at-large, André Leon Talley.