Celebrating Alexander McQueen
When it comes to drama and storytelling, fashion may never outdo Alexander McQueen. The phenomenally talented designer was known for channeling his own inner demons and angst into compelling, captivating, and at times disturbing narratives for his collections and runway shows. And yet, when it came time to tell the story of the designer himself via the newly released documentary McQueen, filmmakers Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui found that getting to the story was nearly impossible. In honor of their work, today we’re taking a closer look at the film and at the incredible legacy of Alexander McQueen.
McQueen’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings as a high school dropout to the upper echelons of the fashion elite and then his tragic death by suicide in 2010 have all been highly publicized to the point of becoming tabloid fodder. That level of scrutiny worked against Bonhôte (producer and co-director) and Ettedgui (writer and co-director) when it came to making their documentary. Those closest to McQueen were leery of speaking publicly or discussing private aspects of the designer’s life. It was only by centering the film on McQueen’s work rather than his personal life that they got the designer’s friends, colleagues, and even family members to open up on camera in a series of revelatory interviews.
The resulting documentary spans the breadth of McQueen’s career, from his 1992 graduation from Central Saint Martins to his 1997 appointment as the creative director of Givenchy, his departure from the French couture house in 2001, and the final years he dedicated to his eponymous label. The linchpin of the film came when Sebastian Pons, McQueen’s former assistant, supplied the filmmakers with four hours of home videos of the designer speaking and sharing his own view of his work, as well as his personal struggles with issues like drug use, his sexuality, and his mental health.
One source that Bonhôte and Ettedgui did not tap in their process was the Alexander McQueen brand that has lived on beyond its founder. Anxious to look forward rather than backward and to embrace Sarah Burton, the house’s current creative director and McQueen’s successor, the brand declined to participate in the film. That being said, archival footage shows Burton working side-by-side with McQueen, who trained and groomed her, and many of those interviewed speak to how pleased McQueen would be that Burton — a fashion outsider in her own right — took the reins after his death.
In that same spirit of looking forward, we too would like to celebrate Burton’s work and the amazing strides that she has made at McQueen in the past eight years. With that in mind, allow us to share some of our favorites from among her latest creations. Stop into a movie theater at a Simon near you to see McQueen, then pick up your own piece of the label to commemorate the occasion!