AP NEWS

‘McQueen’ documentary shows dark side of the fashion world (review)

August 17, 2018

‘McQueen’ documentary shows dark side of the fashion world (review)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Alexander McQueen was no mere clothing designer or fashionista. The documentary “McQueen” makes it abundantly clear that the man who took the fashion industry by storm in 1985 and who took his own life in 2010 at the age of 40 was visionary artist of the first order.

He wasn’t creating pretty clothing for rich socialites to wear to fancy social affairs. He was mining the dark recesses of his soul to liberate the sexual and psychological demons that haunted him throughout his brief life.

It’s kind of difficult to square this modest working-class kid from the East End of London, the youngest of six children born to a taxi-driver dad, with the creative artistic powerhouse and influencer he would later and rapidly become.

His career began when, at the age of 16, he took a job as an apprentice tailor on Savile Row. That’s where he picked up the basics of his craft that he would later spin into visionary gold.

In 1992, he got a master’s degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. His first show completed as part of his schooling was entitled “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.” The fashion world was shocked by the violent and menacing theme of the show from a young, inexperienced kid just out of school.

Isabella Blow, a socialite with ties to the aristocracy and an outrageous personality on the fashion scene, instantly recognized McQueen’s genius. She immediately bought the entire collection and became one McQueen’s first and most enthusiastic champions. The purchase made the whole fashion world sit up and take notice.

In 2000, the Gucci Group, under creative director Tom Ford, acquired a 51 percent share in the Alexander McQueen label. Now McQueen had real money for the first time and he could pursue his vision with unbridled abandon. It also gave him a taste for drugs and the fast life of haute couture.

Throughout the documentary, McQueen is quoted talking about the pressures of the fashion world, the jealousies and desires of others to see him fail. It’s also revealed that McQueen suffered childhood sexual abuse, leaving a darkness that informed much of his work and life.

A perfect example of McQueen’s work and the impact it had on the fashion world was a show he called “Highland Rape.” It was inspired by the fact that one of his sisters was subject to domestic violence at the hands of her husband when McQueen was a young boy.

The models in his show were made to look battered and bruised, and their clothing was ripped and torn as if they were victims of sexual violence. These weren’t clothes anyone was going buy at Target. He was creating an image and making a statement regarding issues he cared about. That he used clothing was almost beside the point.

McQueen suffered from anxiety and depression all his life. Eventually, it all became too much for him. The money, fame and recognition were not enough to save him from his demons.

The documentary “McQueen” is as beautiful, baffling and brutal as its subject.

REVIEW

McQueen

Who: Documentary directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui.

Rated: R for language and nudity.

Running Time: 111 minutes.

When: Opens Friday, Aug. 17.

Where: Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.

Grade: B+

AP RADIO
Update hourly