Life of Newham-raised fashion designer Alexander McQueen features in new film

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 June 2018

Alexander McQueen Picture: Yui Mok/PA

Alexander McQueen Picture: Yui Mok/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

The life of Newham-raised fashion designer Alexander McQueen has been turned into a film.

The feature-length documentary, McQueen, tells the story of a man seen as a tortured genius who shocked the fashion world with his designs before committing suicide in 2010 aged 40.

McQueen – who grew up in Stratford and went to Rokeby School before doing a tailoring course at Newham College – charts the rise of the openly gay trailblazer from his teenage years to his appointment as lead designer of Paris fashion house Givenchy.

His sister Janet, interviewed in the film, said: “When Lee [McQueen’s real first name] was 17, he said, ‘I’ll make you a couple of skirts’. I’ve got to say, they fitted like a glove.”

The movie features collections and catwalk shows including a 1999 ready-to-wear collection which ended in model Shalom Harlow posing on a revolving wooden platform while two robot arms sprayed her white dress with streaks of yellow, green and black paint.

The press labelled him a woman hater for his 1995 “Highland rape” collection which saw torn Scottish tartans draped over bruised models who staggered down the runway as if they had just been physically assaulted backstage.

For his spring 2001 show he created a giant mirrored cube lit from within allowing a stunned audience to view models staggering around the inside like asylum patients.

In one scene McQueen describes his motivation to camera: “I want you to be repulsed or exhilarated.

“You don’t move forward if you play safe,” he says.

His drug-fuelled battles with personal demons are revealed in tearful confessions from friends and colleagues although ex-husband George Forsyth does not appear on screen.

And in a sign of his loneliness, in one scene McQueen says: “If I’ve had a bad day, I’ve only got myself to talk to.”

Music composed by Michael Nyman, who provided the soundtrack to some of his shows, plucks at the heartstrings as the film glides towards its conclusion and McQueen’s 2010 suicide before the funeral of his mother Joyce.

McQueen, directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui, is released on June 8.

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