Fashion Documentary - Masters of Style: Alexander McQueen Welcome back to the Summer of Fashion Documentaries! This week we are watching Masters of Style: Alexander McQueen. (You can watch this documentary streaming here on hulu.)
Here's the setup: Alexander McQueen = genius designer. This documentary is a collage of commentary from fashion mavens, footage of old runway shows, and an interview with a dressed-down McQueen in a park.
As best as I can tell the documentary was released around 2001. (I couldn't find a release date when researching the film, but at the end of the documentary it states that McQueen left Givenchy right after they finished production. That happened in 2001.)
McQueen took his own life in 2010, and going back to this point of his career while knowing the devastating ending is a hard juxtaposition.
"Fashion can start to take an active political role rather than an implied political role. Rather than be a reflection of power it can be a vehicle of change. I think Lee (McQueen) helped open that up." - Nick Knight
Watch this Documentary
If you are interested in McQueen's influence on fashion. This film pops in on him mid-career. (When I say mid-career, he was 32 at the time of filming. But, to put things in perspective, he had already been working in the fashion world for 16 years at that point.) It's a bizarre - and fascinating - time to hear him talk about his career. He had reached a level of fame that clearly identified him as a design superstar, but there wasn't enough perspective yet to understand his gravitas within his own industry.
Also, to hear McQueen talk about his struggles for acceptance in a world that wasn't quite ready for his work is chilling. The collections that caused so much controversy can now clearly be seen, over 13 years later, as brilliant.
Skip this Documentary
If you don't want to come in mid-stream on a designer's life. This documentary can be a doozy for fans of McQueen's work. It's hard to see footage of the man himself and hear him talk about his professional struggles while understanding the epilogue of the story. It's also difficult to come to grips with the idea that the world lost a talent so early on his career. McQueen's imagination was staggering. (Did you know in 2001 he was coming out with 12 collections a year?! Half for his own House and half as a designer for Givenchy.)
Can You Watch This While Doing Other Stuff?
You could, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's a joy to see so many iconic pieces of his collection back to back.
McQueen's interview obviously happened in one sitting over a short period of time. He talked with a reporter while walking, smoking, and sitting in a park. There are some odd moments when the reporter tries to explain McQueen's work to him, but McQueen won't take the bait. It's not confrontational, it's just McQueen being honest in the moment and answering the questions in an authentic way. This particular exchange was quite telling:
Journalist: "You're looking for beauty...."
McQueen: "Maybe I'm just looking for acceptance. From myself. Sometimes I'm not very proud of what I do myself."
There is a level of vulnerability and down-to-earth practicality that makes McQueen relatable even through his own genius. But, mostly, what the viewer is left with is a sense that McQueen was truly an artist.
"I'm not some fashion type. I don't really fit in with that clique or fashion people." - Alexander McQueen
Running Time: 48 minutes (released 2001)
You can watch our next documentary, Mademoiselle C, streaming on Netflix.