Alexander McQueen was fashion’s bad boy done good. Born Lee Alexander McQueen (he dropped ‘Lee’ because Alexander ‘sounded posher’), he was the son of an East End cabby and left school at 16. As an apprentice tailor on Savile Row, he famously scrawled rude words into the lining of a suit for Prince Charles. When he committed suicide aged 40 he was the most powerful British designer in the world. This intelligent, honest documentary explores his complex personality without getting tacky or tabloidy, or ignoring McQueen’s dark side. Its access to his friends and family is impressive, though key people are missing – most glaringly long-time stylist Katy England.
Where did his demons come from? An ex-boyfriend says that McQueen told him he’d been sexually abused from the age of nine by his sister’s husband. Friends talk about his cocaine habit. There are fond stories about the early days too, when McQueen’s gang built an empire: skint kids having a blast. Backstage at his catwalk shows McQueen’s auntie Renee used to feed the models sausage rolls.
This doc makes a convincing case that McQueen was a serious artist, with clip after clip of his legendary catwalk shows – more performance art and theatre than fashion. At one, frenzied fashion students stampeded through the barriers to get a glimpse of it. As McQueen himself said: ‘If you want to know me, look at the work.’