Alexander McQueen: A genius born out of the dark side

'McQueen' will reveal the story of a man born to a poor family, engulfed by violence at a young age, who despite rebelling against the world around him, corrupted his own


                            Alexander McQueen: A genius born out of the dark side
Alexander McQueen (Source: Getty Images)

Alexander McQueen referred himself to a gazelle "who always got eaten," and you may think how a man born to a taxi driver turned tables to become the most feted designer of the 21st century, could ever refer himself to be an antelope that Persian poets have long described in verses to be a beloved creature waiting to be freed. Eight years after the death of a fierce designer, it is time to know who Alexander McQueen truly was and what prompted him to hang himself at his Mayfair home in February 2010. 

You may have heard his stories and the multi-million fashion legacy he left behind, but behind the glamour of spikes and skulls, a new documentary titled 'McQueen' will reveal the story of a man born to a poor family, engulfed by violence at a young age, who despite triumphing against odds and rebelling against the world around him, corrupted his own. This time you're not going to see his favorite model friends and celebrities share anecdotes, it is, in fact, going to be narrated by Alexander McQueen himself, and his close friends and family, who knew who he was before the world did.

The trailer of the movie dropped three weeks ago. Co-directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, the trailer already sheds light on the darkness of the British designer with an astounding opening line; "No one discovered Alexander McQueen. Alexander McQueen discovered himself." With thumping music, McQueen himself goes on to reveal; "I wasn't very good at school. I was always drawing clothes." The two-minute trailer is promising enough, for us to anticipate that McQueen's story is unlike what we have heard or witnessed before, even though there have been enough materials on his life and death.

The movie has been slated to release on July 20, 2018 in the US. The story of a rich designer who took his life can be a mainstream theme these days but what makes this movie stand out in a world already brimming with such stories is the emotion the film evokes. According to the director Ettedgui, who revealed in an interview: "There’s an awful lot of manicure that happens within fashion PR – the mystique is always preserved. The thing with McQueen is that he didn’t care about all that. He wanted to show that he had this desperate, dark side to him as well. The story transcends the fashion business and fashion aesthetics."

"A lot of people were worried about talking about Lee, so we focused more on the close friends and family. It’s the story of an extraordinary man that just happened to be a fashion designer. It became a strength, rather than a weakness, to avoid all the fashion commentators," said Ian Bonhôte.

McQueen was known as Lee to his friends and he was true to himself and the world around him, even if that identity was his dark side; he quickly earned the title of fashion's "bad boy" since he didn't think twice before doing anything groundbreaking such as sewing the phrase "I am a cunt" into the lining of a handmade suit for Prince Charles and publicly dissing David Beckham by saying "That man is vainer than the veins running through my dick."

His dark side was very much out there in the public, especially in his designs, but maybe the world failed to acknowledge. His models were shown with blood red eyes and attached skeletons to their ankles. McQueen's inspiration was the dark and the twisted such as the Victorian mental asylum patients, the 19th-century serial killer Jack the Ripper, the gothic fairytales of the Grimm brothers and the atrocities of the British in Scotland and the tale of his ancestor hanging himself during the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692.

The themes of his fashion shows were titled 'Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims,' and the controversial 'Highland Rape.' But the show that established him as the "bleeding edge of London fashion" was the one titled 'It's a Jungle Out There,' which came out just five weeks after McQueen's Givenchy couture fiasco - which he called it as "crap." After begging Givenchy to fire him from the prestigious position of creative director, he went on to present his eponymous collection in London with this show. This caught the attention of luxury conglomerates and Gucci bought 51% of McQueen's stakes.

Suddenly, a boy from East End was partying with the "It" girls of the time including Kate Moss and was headlining fashion magazines. His shows were an experience in itself and his mentor, Isabella Blow said: "It's all about feelings, to Lee," who was struck by the emotional quality of his work. Blow committed suicide in 2007. 

“I find beauty in the grotesque,” McQueen once said. His every single show had outfits designed to thrill and shock the audience and often labeled "misogynistic". In the trailer, he says that he doesn't want his audience to feel like it was a "Sunday lunch."

"I want you to feel repulsed or exhilarated," he states.

Coupling the behind-the-scenes footage, personal interviews of the designer himself and his sister and bringing it together as a film will give the audience a deeper look on who Alexander McQueen truly was, with his dark side, history of drugs and liposuction. The trailer further states that it was the darkness that made the genius.

On the day of his suicide, his Tweets were cryptic and dark to his followers. It was obvious that he was devastated after his mother passed away and when he broke the news to his followers, he tweeted "Hells Angels + Prolific Demons" twice in February with his last Tweet etched in all caps and exclamations.

This new upcoming movie, promises to explore the dark side unlike the previous 2011 documentary by Louise Osmond focused which primarily on the designer’s complex relationship with mentor and patron Isabella Blow. The show that made McQueen who he is and his legacy continues to shine with tributes pouring in daily from all over the world, including Lady Gaga donning his outrageous Armadillo shoes, can be credited to a television documentary on gazelles. "I watched those gazelles getting munched by lions and hyenas and said, 'That's me!' Someone's chasing me all the time, and, if I'm caught, they'll pull me down. Fashion is a jungle full of nasty, bitchy hyenas," he said in an interview. Maybe this documentary will reveal why he ever felt that way.