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McQueen Review - A Four Star Fashionista Experience

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McQueen, from Bleecker Street, presents the rags to riches story of iconic Fashion Designer Alexander "Lee" McQueen, whose unbelievable journey could never have been imagined bringing him from his working class East London home to the House of Givenchy.

Co-directed Ian Bonhite and written and directed by Peter Ettedgui, McQueen gathers friends, family and those closest to the creative genius to tell the story of destiny intervention, and the enormous life and lived in such a short time.

The documentary features original interviews with those who knew McQueen including stylist Mira Chai Hyde, assistant designer Sebastian Pons, early industry supporters including John Mcketterick and Bobby Hilson, Detmar Blow, the widower of Isabelle Blow, who was also Alexander "Lee" McQueen's best friend. Interviews given by McQueen himself are also used which gives a first person feel to the doc.


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As Lee evolved as a designer the showcases of his skill, his collections, became the foundations for the vignettes. Four stages of his life, each titled with one of his collections, each reveling the desire to shock the audience with his designs beginning with "Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims," which began his love hate affair with the fashion world.

A victim of his own skill and talent, McQueen channeled the creative genius into a super fueled work ethic, granted at times in London in the 1990's the frenetic energy was part deadline part cocaine. He explained "My shows are about sex, drugs and rock and roll. It's for the excitement and the goosebumps. I want heart attacks. I want ambulances."

With a stratospheric rise one would find it difficult to believe he remained so close to his family and yet, his mum, was his anchor. Not knowing where his love of fashion or skill came from when it was time for him to find a job, as she explained she and her husband, were always keen on the children working, and knowing a working class life wouldn't hold him, she explained the local tailor is having trouble finding apprentices and here he was looking for a job.

Following her advice, Lee secures the apprentice job at an old school Savile Row tailor and Haberdashery, displaying an innate skill. He learns the industry terms, hones his cutting techniques, and masters his ability to create the perfect suit.

McQueen's sister, Janet, is featured heavily in the documentary and explains as 15 years his senior, she was living out of the home while he was experimenting with fashion. McQueen describes fashion as almost a epiphany, in art class he loved drawing women's clothing.

It seemed a final statement, hardly a career choice for someone from Stratford, London's East side, where bricklayer, cabbie or plumber would be considered normal, acceptable and proper. And it was the 1990's in London, the punk years. Proper and punk had nothing in common and McQueen fell somewhere in the middle.

Proper was redefined as McQueen continued to rise in popularity and prestige and punk, well, punk never left.

In order to capture the essence of Lee, the directors incorporated his unusual flair and belief that shock value went further than mannequins walking. His shows reflected this pummel of the expected runway fashion show integrating theater, shock, fashion, beauty and the unimaginable or the pièce de résistance in each collection.

When the invited guests left what lingered was the show they witnessed be it robots spray painting a stark white dress, or a "fuck you" to the fashion industry with his insane asylum show that included a finale with a plus size nude model.

McQueen went out of his way to shock first. After which he wooed, dressed and presented desire. His passion was his creation, his clothing. Working 24 hour days a week before the collection debuted was generally accepted as common. He was, after all, McQueen.

McQueen also focuses on Isabelle Blow, Lee's best friend. She was the society gadabout, the pushy publicist, the den mother and best friend all rolled into one. When he needed connections she was there to push him forward, when it was introduction, she moved mountains for him. She invested in his talent, and for years it was reciprocal. The fairytale friendship also suffered when Lee received the promotion to the House of Givenchy.

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After McQueen's death, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York curated an historic exhibition titled, "Savage Beauty." It was attended by more than 650,000 people who waited in line for hours. The exhibition couldn't hold the amount of work Lee created in his twenty year career. Many have said most couldn't create an equal amount in 80years. He was the van Gogh of fashion, tortured, self-deprecating and always on the verge of brilliance and never believing it.

For fashionista's McQueen is a must see documentary, a behind the scenes backstage pass into the world of sex, drugs, rock and roll and fashion. It is a glimpse into the life of Alexandra McQueen. For those who walked for him, or happen to remember those days of extravagance and runaway theater, it is a trip down memory lane, Shalom Harlow, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, it was the 1990's and the advent of the Supermodel.

As a documentary it is flawless and honestly pure McQueen; wild, vivid, uncompromising.

McQueen is playing in theaters everywhere. See it!

 

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