There have been countless documentaries that followed the lives of designers that influenced people around the world, going beyond the boundary of fashion. In the past we have seen documentaries for Vivienne Westwood, Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten, and Karl Lagerfeld. This year, on April 5th, the documentary that exposes the life of genius fashion designer Alexander McQueen was released.
Times were bad in 1990’s when United Kingdom was undergoing a recession in economy. On the other hand, young British culture was thriving, and influenced the world with examples such as rock music and graffiti art. Fashion was another thing, and Alexander McQueen, who had made his striking debut in 1993, was one of the key figures in establishing British fashion culture.
Lee Alexander McQueen was born in a working-class community, where making a living was not easy. Using his unemployment compensation, he launched his own brand and made his debut as a fashion designer at age 23.
This documentary film unveils the life of the legendary designer, who was known for his radical creativity that no other has. The film explores McQueen’s own dialogues and people that were greatly involved in his life, which reveals the truth behind the agony that the designer suffered from, and his overpouring sensitivity.
McQueen’s mother, Joyce, speaks about the designer’s early days spent in East End, where he was born and raised. Skipping school and jobless, McQueen heard about a tailor that needed a hand, and started to serve an apprenticeship. At age 16, the designer realized his talent for clothes making. Later, McQueen travelled to Italy to work as an assistant for Romeo Gigli. Gigli tells about McQueen’s cocky attitude at the time. After returning to the UK, McQueen presented his graduation collection at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, which came to the attention of Isabella Blow, who helped him change his life dramatically.
His powerful, avant-garde collection had mixed reception, but quickly became a topic of sensation. The impeccable tailoring skills that he acquired at a young age and his exceptionally unique style earned him the position of creative director for GIVENCHY. In contrast with the creative he proposed for the established maison, his namesake brand featured extreme unconventionality, and earned him the nickname “l’enfant terrible”, while developing his reputation. Amidst the advancement in his career, London started to see the Cool Britannia movement. This was right around the same time when the film “Trainspotting” was released, and the world saw the UK reaching its peak in entertainment.
Although he was extremely successful as a creator, McQueen suffered from anxiety and from being under pressure, which led him to drug abuse. After getting convinced by Tom Ford, he sold 51% of Alexander McQueen Ltd’s stock to the Gucci Group. Upon finding out about this news, GIVENCHY, belonging to the competitor LVMH Group, dismissed McQueen before the end of his contract term. In the 2000’s, McQueen founded his second line McQ, and further explored his creativity through collaborations with brands like PUMA and with Tim Burton. He also began to work on the costume design for artists like David Bowie and Lady Gaga, and directing Bjork’s music video. However, in 2010, McQueen decided to take his own life. As a contributor to a new era in fashion and British culture, he earned the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire. How did he gain success through a modern fairytale-like career, and what caused him to burn out? The film uncovers the behind the scenes of the legendary show that features music by Michael Nyman, the composer of “The Piano”. It is needless to say that this documentary is more emotional than any drama could convey, as it focuses on the vocation and the reason behind the pain that came with it.
To put on clothes is an easy thing to do for anyone. On the other hand, to be fashionable is a whole different story, since it depends on whether or not you know well enough about the brand you are wearing. Designer documentaries are ideal learning guides for fashion. Enjoy fashion more from getting an in-depth understand of the designer that has a tremendous influence on today’s street fashion.
About the film
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Directors: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
Music: Michael Neyman
Cast: Lee Alexander McQueen, Isabella Blow, Tom Ford, etc.
Text_ HAYATO HOSOYA