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Pinning down the real Alexander McQueen

Heartfelt documentary pedestals the east London designer who took his own life in 2010

08 June, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Alexander McQueen at work

Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui
Certificate 12a

ALEXANDER McQueen strode through the global fashion scene like a great big stomping giant, taking no prisoners, squashing convention, all the while being exactly the type of character the fashion world is drawn to, draws in, and loves.

So while he was one of a kind, a rebel, a rule breaker, he was almost a ready-made cut-out of what the industry likes – a paradox that translates from catwalks through to off-the-peg crazes designers like McQueen inspire.

This gentle, heartfelt documentary pedestals the east London designer who took his own life in 2010.

Directors Bonhôte and Ettedgui are clearly fans and they have the run of plenty of footage, ranging from the backstage stuff used to capture shows, home videos and a lot of interviews. It gives the directors a comprehensive library to draw on and gives the film a further sense that it leaves no stone unturned.

Best of all, this film shows what McQueen was interested in – and how those interests translated into his work. So we have an insight into the Renaissance sculpture he was taken by, the music he enjoyed, and the shoulders he stood on.

It could feel slightly condescending that the fact he was born in east London into a family that were not well off, but dressed some of the richest people in the world, has an element of looking down one’s nose. It could feel uncomfortable – like his background is not as worthy or as interesting as those who could afford his batshit-crazy creations, and that he had to have this career trajectory to be “someone”.

The fashion world is a weird industry per se, drawing on the entire range of oddness within our humanity – preening, showing off, aesthetic beauty, materialism, creation, imagination, touch, anthropology, misogyny, sex… the list is pretty much endless – and this film has managed, by focusing on one such successful proponent, to create a forum for the viewer to consider this. It makes it one for all, not just fashionistas who get the clothes thing.


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