Alexander McQueen Exposed

A New Doc Explores the Designer's Genius

BY: Claire Connors

Few names in the fashion world evoke such adulation like Alexander McQueen’s. The “hooligan of English fashion” as he was affectionately known, was a rising star in London almost from the moment he touched needle to fabric back in the 1980s, apprenticing for Savile Row tailors when he was just a teenager.

alexander mcqueen in a suit
Alexander McQueen on the runaway

His skills at making a perfect suit served him well when he was starting out, earning him a spot in the masters program at Central Saint Martin College of Art and Design. When he graduated in 1992, McQueen’s entire final collection was bought by the hugely influential fashion editor, Isabella Blow. With her stamp of approval, McQueen went on to become the youngest chief designer of Givenchy in 1996, and the mastermind behind of the most mind-blowing fashion collections of the 21st Century.

A Model wears a creation by Alexander McQueen as part of his Fall/Winter 2009/10 ready-to-wear women's collection during Paris Fashion Week March 10, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol (FRANCE FASHION) - RTXCLSZ
A Model wears a creation by Alexander McQueen as part of his Fall/Winter 2009/10 ready-to-wear women’s collection during Paris Fashion Week March 10, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol (FRANCE FASHION)

As shocking and surprising as McQueen’s theatrical events were, nothing could prepare the world for his devastating suicide in 2010 at age 40. The mere thought of the unrealized inventiveness of this young, tortured genius, broke the hearts of fashionistas around the world…into a million pieces.

mcqueen and skull
Portrait of Alexander McQueen with skull

 

Perhaps that’s why it feels almost necessary for there to be a brilliant documentary on the equally brilliant designer. Created by award-winning director/producer Ian Bonhôte and filmmaker Peter Ettedgui, McQueen is an intimate look at the controversial life and creative force of the man behind the outrageous designs that garnered him the fashion world’s top prize, British Designer of the Year, four times.

With interviews of family and friends, the documentary spans McQueen’s 19-year career, from his early days as a tailor to the fantastic footage of some of his most provocative shows. Included in the doc is one of his most famous runway stunts: Spring/Summer 1999, where Shalom Harlow revolves on the runway in a strapless white dress while being spray painted by robotic guns.

 

And of course, no story about the virtuoso that was Alexander McQueen is complete without a reference to his posthumous show, Savage Beauty, presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. If there was ever proof that McQueen was a true artist whose medium just happened to be clothing, this spectacular exhibition was it.

McQueen premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week and opens June 8th in Great Britain.