Reading and studying fashion trends is an interest I developed in my early twenties, and while it is rare that I would write my thoughts about a film, McQueen is one of those exceptions.
In 2010 I pinned a magazine eulogy for British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen to my wall, next to a picture of structural feathered dress from his 2008 collection La Dame Bleue. I attended the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A Museum, London, in 2015, five years after his death and it remains, for me, the greatest fashion exhibit I have ever seen. Not only were there hundreds of exquisite pieces on display, including the feathered dress from my wall, it was a succinct educational narrative of the two decades in which McQueen had pioneered innovation in the fashion industry.
You could not leave the exhibition without the knowledge that he had been a key figure responsible for the changing face and shape of modern clothing trends. The McQueen silhouette was iconic for empowering a woman’s body and presence. His theatrical runway shows were consistently breaking boundaries, shocking critics and shining a light on British fashion.
Having been blown away by the exhibition, which had a record breaking 1 million visitors, I was naturally looking forward to watching McQueen, a biopic film documentary released in 2018 about his life and career, as told by close friends, family and colleagues. The film features reels of archive footage from some of his key shows and clothing collections. Thanks to its contributors, the film is able to add personal context to the stories, inspiration and thinking behind McQueen’s clothing, and the people he was closest to.
We watch the public rise and private fall of a deeply talented man in a fiercely critical industry that labelled him rebellion personified. The toll of managing an ever-increasing workload, pressure to innovate, combined with personal loss, illness and private struggles lead you to the end with great sadness.
As you would expect, it is a visually exquisite film, not least because of the clothing, but from the stunning graphics, illustration and animation. The accompanying score is composed by Michael Nyman who was McQueen’s favourite composer and often played in his studio as he worked.
I think the film is a compelling demonstration of a particular artistic talent that is often misunderstood and makes a social pariah of its inhabitant. McQueen is directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui and currently available to watch on Netflix.