“McQueen” Explores the Savage Beauty of Late Fashion Icon

Filmmakers Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s new feature length documentary, “McQueen” sets its sights on the tragic story of great British designer Lee Alexander McQueen up until his death in 2010.

McQueen founded his brand in 1992 and garnered notorious press for his shocking runway shows that mixed gothic beauty with controversial presentations. McQueen’s shows were meticulous theater shows wherein models walked the runway in pouring rain, gravity-defying high heels, or even trash bags.

A/W 1998’s ready-to-wear show drew inspiration from Joan of Arc and demons, seeing its models dressed head to toe in red, surrounded by a circle of flame.

Bohôte told Harpers Bazaar UK, “I think a documentary is better than a biopic because there’s no one better than the real people to tell the story. Audiences don’t care if it has slick imagery; they care about the emotion of that visual or footage, whether it shows them something they didn’t know.”

The dark genius that was the openly gay designer lies within his twisted inspirations that led to his wickedly wonderful clothing pieces. McQueen’s own curiosity was his driving force, and his knack for obscure history made the origin stories of the fashion so divine.

McQueen’s 1997 collaboration for Bjork’s “Homogenic” album cover saw the singer clad in an Asian-inspired kimono with elongating gold neck rings, twenty pounds of hair in two buns, and long acrylic nails to capture the energy of a silent but deadly warrior woman.

McQueen’s runway collections drew inspiration from the Salem witch trials, his experiences scuba diving, the serial killer Jack the Ripper, the environmental impact of trash pollution, the tradition of bullfighting, Joan of Arc as well as more odd sources like taxidermy, clowns, moths and piss fetishes.

McQueen worked with an impressive roster of big name stars like David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Björk. He designed the jacket for the cover of Bowie’s 1997 album “Earthling,” the dresses for Björk’s “Homogenic” album cover and “Pagan Poetry” music video in 2001, and clothing for Lady Gaga’s 2009 Grammy winning “Bad Romance” video.

A/W 2009 collection “The Horn of Plenty” challenged the opulence and wasteful materialism of high fashion through recycled accessories and trash repurposed through a tongue-in-cheek method.

“Plato’s Atlantis,” Alexander McQueen’s last runway show with him as the designer behind his McQueen brand, saw models transformed into post-human sea reptiles of the lost island Atlantis, adorned in snake skin prints and facial prosthetics. Models also graced the runway in sky-high, eleven-inch armadillo skin heels. The show was for the Summer/Spring 2010 season and debuted in October of 2009 to rave reviews.

McQueen’s S/S 2010 collection “Plato’s Atlantis” combined reptiles with high glam aliens underwater. The models wore 11 inch armadillo skin heels.

2010 saw the death of McQueen’s mother, Joyce, and left him debilitatingly depressed and he “could not face the future”. Nine days later on February 11, McQueen took his own life.

Bonhôte and Ettedgui’s “McQueen” not only acts as a tribute to a fashion genius gone too soon, but also as a film to document the British troublemaker’s spirit.

“McQueen” premieres July 20 in select theaters. Watch the trailer below.