Directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui, McQueen is a two-hour documentary about the late British fashion mogul Alexander McQueen, a film designed to unmask a legend whose public facade masked private insecurities and depression.
The film is split into five different segments, and features one-on-one interviews with some of his closest colleagues and friends.
Born Lee Alexander McQueen to working class parents, the Londoner’s rise to fame is made for the silver screen - he was an underdog who made it to the top of the fashion world with nothing but passion, grit and mentors who nurtured his talent.
One of them was the late English magazine editor, Isabella Blow, who is often credited with discovering new talents such as model Stella Tennant and hat designer Philip Treacy. The documentary explores the tumultuous yet delicate relationship between the two. It’s easy to draw parallels between their relationship and that of Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor - there were traumatic childhood experiences aplenty, which led their deep platonic relationships.
When a documentary is released posthumously, you run the risk of not giving its subjects a voice of their own - in other words, it could’ve ended up as a film about McQueen, without any other side to the story. Luckily, as well as snippets of interviews with the designer, his presence is very much seen and felt through his collections.
The most intriguing part of the film focuses on the formation of his “demons” - which stemmed from the abuse he suffered in his formative years - which were also the inspiration behind some his most iconic designs. McQueen once said: “Every fashion designer wants to create an illusion, to create things that disturb people.” His controversial and now-notorious 1995 collection, where models walked down the catwalk appearing to have just been attacked, is not easy on the eyes, but certainly served its purpose, which was to provoke.
Sadly, his success ultimately became his undoing. As Lao Tzu said: “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long”; McQueen committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 40, on the eve of his mother’s funeral. But even after his death, fans and critics alike continue to speculate on what could have been, and try, in vain, to fully comprehend his genius and legacy. What could have been a depressing look-back at a life ended too soon is, in fact, a joy to watch.