No-one would have believed that the person to change the fashion world forever, would come from the Stratford-side of London, but he did.
This documentary, by Ian Bonhote (“In The Blackout (Short)”, “Alleycats (Short)”) and Peter Ettedgui (“George Best: All By Himself”, “Listen To Me Marlon”), delves into the life of the maverick fashion designer whilst skirting round some of the more tricky points of his life and legacy.
His sexuality for instance, whilst they talk to boyfriends of Lee’s past, they don’t speak to his ‘unofficial’ husband and it’s almost a footnote to everything else. As is the fact that, on camera, Lee says he’d “burn McQueen down” before someone else took over, that may explain why Sarah Burton is completely absent from the documentary.
These things aside, it’s a fascinating and well put together look into how he came to prominence. The tumultuous relationship with benefactor Isabella Blow covers a large part of the proceedings, Lee not happy that the press say she ‘discovered’ him.
We are given an insight into how McQueen’s clothing for the catwalk was produced, hint: cheaply and last minute, and how he said that Givenchy was “a load of crap”, shortly before being offered a job as creative director there.
The French, as you’d expect, hated that an Englishman and his team were taking over a famous French fashion house and had it in for him from the start, particularly as Lee was taking them to places they’d never been before, and still producing for the McQueen label.
Perhaps the biggest influence on Lee McQueen’s life though was his mother. He adored her and suffered many the same things as she did throughout his life, things children shouldn’t see or have done to them.
The documentary swerves, quite rightly, speaking to supermodel after supermodel, although Jodie Kidd does have her say, favouring speaking to Lee’s family, work colleagues and friends.
Mira Chai Hyde, a long time collaborator of Lee’s, talks of him with a love and fondness that we all hope someone will speak of us with.
It’s not until the money arrives from Gucci that things begin to spiral. Drugs enter the scene, the number of collections to be created each season sky-rockets, pressure mounts and, for many, it stops being fun anymore.
You never knew which Lee McQueen would turn up: the joker, always ready to have a laugh and play practical jokes, or the demon, a sweary, shouty, unhappy man.
There is no doubting the creativity of Lee Alexander McQueen, even if you don’t like his clothes, the shows he put on were absolutely spectacular and spectacularly controversial.
It was on the eve of his mother’s funeral, nearly nine years ago now, that he sadly took his own life. He had talked about doing so at the end of one of his shows, with a gun, the ultimate goodbye for a showman who, like many creative geniuses before him, would have been happy being anonymous.
THE QUICK SELL
The life and career of fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen: from his start as a tailor, to launching and overseeing his eponymous line, and his untimely death.