Last night I finally saw the documentary “McQueen and I“. I’d missed it on tv last week and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to see the Channel 4 version of the story of Alexander McQueen, one of my all time favourite designers. I didn’t know how Channel 4 could make a programme which was aimed at the general public, which could still truly pay respects to the late designer without focusing on the bad and the drama, and forgetting the good.
In the end, I’m happy I did watch it, and I truly urge you all to watch it too if you haven’t yet. McQueen and I shows the evolution of the amazing relationship between Lee McQueen and his muse and discoverer Isabella Blow (the “I” in McQueen & I), from his very humble student start, where she bought his full first collection, to his amazing rise to success, which eventually led to his move to Paris as the Creative Director of Givenchy in just a few years.
The pair were clearly oddly matched soulmates, as this documentary clearly shows. However, as his career continued to skyrocket, hers plummeted. Their relationship eventually soured, leading to both their downfalls in the end.
The documentary is both and insightful and respectful story about these 2 late fashion icons. But it is also an amazing eye-opener on the pressures of the fashion industry – it shows how, in just over 2 years, McQueen designed over 20 collections. Him crumbling at some point seemed almost inevitable. With Galliano-gate currently being worldwide news, gives some understanding into the constant pressures these designers are constantly under.
In no way am I defending or excusing John Galliano, and until now I have refused to even speak about the situation, because I don’t think it is up to me to do so (I don’t approve, in case you’re wondering), but it does make you think about the designer’s situation from a different point of view.
But what I take back from this documentary most of all, are the fashion Moments with a capital M, of which Alexander McQueen provided the world with more than plenty. His shows were the kind of performance art that we no longer see in shows these days. There was the show where he had a big mirrored box on the catwalk, where he made editors look at their own reflection for over 2 hours before the show began. The show where he turned Kate Moss into a hologram. There was Plato’s Atlantis, which would be his last ever show, and which was streamed live online for the first time, to such a great success the servers crashed (I was a victim of that). And then there was that unforgettable moment during the SS’99 show where robots sprayed Shalom Harlow’s dress with paint on the catwalk. (Video below)
All of those moments make me wish I was a little bit older and had been around in those days… Truly touching, educational and insightful, with interviews with those who knew the pair, like Suzy Menkes, Lee’s brother, former boyfriend, former business partner… There’s also a ton of footage of both of them I’d never seen before. Scarily, they almost seem to narrate their story themselves.
If you haven’t seen it, and even if you don’t like fashion, please do watch it whilst you still can on Channel4 On Demand here.