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Why The Life Of British Designer Alexander McQueen Is Worth A Thrilling Documentary

Over the weekend, the Tribeca Film Festival premiered the highly anticipated documentary of British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen, and the raving reviews are pouring in. The film, titled “McQueen”, retells the turbulent life and legacy of the designer, who committed suicide in 2010. Through the eyes of people who knew him, and with never-before-seen footage, the documentary pieces back together one of the most iconic designers of the age.



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“McQueen” will no doubt resonate with anyone; the struggle the pursue success and fame is universal as it is. But for those in fashion, this documentary will also offer a glimpse into a creative legend. If you’re not too familiar with the story of Alexander McQueen yet, here’s a quick note to prime yourself for the documentary show.



The “Bad Boy Of Fashion”

Lee’s early work in particular has been described as vulgar, provocative and shocking, spurring polarizing opinions among fashion critics. As his fame grew, and his public image more widespread, Lee was known to diss celebrities he didn’t approve of, and even appear intoxicated on media interviews. Nevertheless, Lee’s many controversies solidified his reputation and voice as a creative. He was only 27 years-old when he was chosen to be the Creative Director of the house of Givenchy, and when asked by a Parisian interviewer what he would contribute to French fashion, Lee cheekily responded, “kill it.”



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Fashion Runway Meets Art

Whether for Givenchy or his own label, Lee’s runway shows were one of the hottest tickets in fashion weeks. Apart from the superb clothes, his shows were known for their elaborate sets, shock tactics, celebrities and artful executions. In fact, Lee’s shows were sort of an art performance in their own right, as he regularly collaborated with cinematic professionals, artists and provocateurs for the runway. Some of his most shows included model Shalom Harlow twirling helplessly while being squirted with paint, a glass pyramid with Kate Moss’ hologram, a naked woman with a breathing apparatus in a glass room filled with moths, and even the shadow of live wolves hovering on the set. His runway antics set a whole new standard for staging a good show in fashion.



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A Rags-To-Riches Story

Lee’s life and career is one of the most modern success stories of a fashion house. Born in East London in a struggling, working class family, he was repeatedly described as a ‘hooligan’ for his mischievous demeanor; but even from an early age, he was known to be artistic. Lee learned his precision cuts and tailoring through work in Savile Row, London and then later in Mila, Italy, before eventually enrolling in Central Saint Martins. With nothing but grit and pure talent, Lee would eventually rose to the creative head of Givenchy, which he juggled alongside his own fashion label—all before he hit 30-years old in 1999. By then, he was one of the most influential designers in the UK, and in the world.


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A Cautionary Tale Of Fashion

Lee’s suicide in 2010 struck a nerve among fashion elites, as it raised the question of mental health among creatives in the fashion industry. Given his history of drug use, some have attributed his depression to substance abuse and alcohol; others attribute his depression to the preceding death of his mother, and his good friend Isabella Blow (who also committed suicide in 2007); and then there were others, who speculated that overwork by the Gucci group pushed him over the edge. Whatever the reason, or the combination of reasons, Lee’s death was greatly mourned by his friends, family and the fashion world.




Lead photos from @tribeca