“At the end of the day, I’m left with the real me. What you see is what you get,” said Alexander McQueen, influential London-born fashion designer.
The documentary entitled “McQueen” (now showing in select theaters), directed by Ian Bonhôte and co-directed/written by Peter Ettedgui, showcases his outlandish shows and the influences from his everyday life that brought every grotesque and beautiful detail into the light.
Whereas McQueen’s fashion shows highlight a darker side of the designer, “McQueen” takes a look into his life before he was a brand fit for the royals and A-list celebrities. Never-before-seen footage taken by McQueen’s close friends and family shows him in his happiest moments, from goofing around in the studio to playing with his dogs. However, the more successful McQueen became, the less joyful he was. According to McQueen’s friend and former assistant Sebastian Pons, McQueen always felt as though the fashion world was out to get him. He dealt with the pressure by turning to drugs, and he attempted to settle his insecurities with his appearance through liposuction.
McQueen’s shows were often a topic of conversation and controversy for portraying harsh subject matter such as mental asylums, Jack the Ripper and horror movies. McQueen’s models have walked the runway caged, bloodied or as actual roadkill. He gave women a kind of armor to scare away their predators and give them additional security. His dark designs, often misconstrued by the media as misogyny, was actually a way for him to release his inner demons into his designs, possibly stemming from the sexual abuse McQueen suffered as a child from his older sister’s ex-husband who he also witnessed beat his sister. Women were the canvas that McQueen used to shock and implore his audience.
“I don’t want to do shows that you walk out of feeling like you just had Sunday lunch,” says McQueen in the film. “I want you to come out feeling either repulsed or exhilarated. As long as it’s an emotion. If you leave without emotion, than I’m not doing my job properly.”
Despite his love for fashion and his immense success in the field, instances such as the suicide of longtime friend Isabella Blow in 2007 and the death of his mother days before his own suicide sent McQueen into an even deeper depression. McQueen was extremely close with his mother, she always sat in the front row of his shows and was extremely proud of her son.
McQueen’s designs live on in the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The designer’s longtime colleague and right-hand at the time of his death, Sarah Burton, oversees all collections by the brand. Eight years after McQueen took his own life, this documentary tells his story.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).