Fashion fans cannot contain their excitement as the trailer for McQueen has been released. The trailer gives us a sneak peek of exclusive interviews with Lee Alexander McQueen’s closest friends, collaborators, and family. We’re also introduced to footage of his boundary-breaking fashion shows as well as striking visuals and archive audio, to expose the authentic portrait of the legendary designer.
For those who witnessed it, it may be hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed McQueen’s tremendous “Savage Beauty” exhibit. Opening the year after he tragically committed suicide at the age of 40, the exhibition broke attendance records for the museum, and gave the wider public a compelling look at a designer already much-lauded in the fashion world.
On April 22nd at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bleecker Street released the official trailer for McQueen; a compelling new documentary that looks at the extraordinary life and career of Alexander McQueen. The film, directed by Ian Bonhôte and written by Peter Ettedgu, is set to show in the Picturehouse Central London from June 8th. This is no ordinary film as according to filmmakers, Bonhôte and Ettedgu, McQueen did not like to be on camera. In fact, the opportunity to capture him on film in an intimate setting was only afforded to his closest friends and family, marking this a spin-tingling creation.
Despite McQueen not being a lover of the camera, we are fortunate to gain access to many happy times that were caught on camera. These memories include McQueen as a paunchy, smiling teenager playing pranks and telling his mum, Joyce McQueen, how beautiful she was. Further videos expose recordings of his playing with his dogs and enjoying conversations with his dear friend, Isabella Blow. There are tapes containing footage from inside his London studio shortly after he graduated from Central Saint Martins and from his first day arriving at Givenchy. It is these explicit memories that form the creation of McQueen.
Alongside this, rare videos of his earlier runway shows create the backbone for the documentary. Bonhôte and Ettedgu use McQueen’s collections as pinpoints to understand his up-and-down life and career. “The early shows, like his graduation collection [from Central Saint Martins in 1992], were very difficult to track down,” says Bonhôte.
“But when we first saw the complete version of that show, we could barely contain our excitement—we suddenly realized that, even then, he had such a clear vision and unique voice.” He adds, “We learned also that was something Isabella Blow spotted immediately. ‘The Yves Saint Laurent of the 21st century,’ she said to his mum when she called up trying to set up a meeting with him.”
Bonhôte and Ettedgu devote quite a bit of screen time to McQueen’s 1995 ‘Highland Rape’ collection, which was criticised for its explicit deception of women in a state of shock and pain after sexual assault. But what viewers did not realise at the time is that McQueen was reflecting on personal experiences. Not only did he use his family’s Scottish ancestry for inspiration, but also his sister’s abuse. McQueen’s sister, as she discusses, was abused by her former husband in front of him, marking ‘Highland Rape’ one of his most personal shows.
Therefore, McQueen is a reminder of how much glory the designer had in his awfully short life. The documentary exposes what very few did not understand – how interconnected his clothes were to his personal narrative. Not only is ‘Highland Rape’ a salient example but his 1997 Fall show, ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’, was a response to the criticism he received for his debut at Givenchy. The Spring 2001 show, titled Voss, featured a curvy nude woman with a breath-taking tube attached to her face and moths fluttering around her body, inspired by Joel-Peter Witkin’s 1983 photograph, ‘Sanitarium‘. It was a metaphor, as explained in McQueen, for the designer’s feeling that the fashion industry had sucked the life out of him. To the outside world, McQueen’s collections were glorious dreamscapes, but this film reminds us of their poignancy.
In the words of Alexander McQueen “give me time and I’ll give you a revolution”.
Text: Ella Buxton
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