Who was the hardest person to convince to talk to you?
IAN: I think I would say [Lee Alexander McQueen’s sister] Janet and actually Janet willingly came to us. [At first] she had said that she wouldn’t talk but we kept in touch. As well as Mira Chai [stylist]- an essential person who because quite a big character in the film. But not difficult but just trying to access if they were ready to share those memories.
It’s a very personal portrait of McQueen – exploring his fears, inspirations, obsessions and nightmares. What was the biggest thing you learned about him that you hadn’t before starting this project?
PETER: One thing is there was this badass, bad boy image about him and he was quite an abrasive personality and one thing I learned was just how much he was loved by the people that worked with him and were friends with him. That they would go to the end of the earth for him. And again, belying his punk, iconoclastic image was an absolute love of tradition, of fine art, of craftsmanship of what he was making. He’d mastered those crafts, to the extent that he could take them anywhere he wanted to. He always felt you had to keep that contact with tradition but nevertheless break all the rules around it. The stories about him creating [and] improvising garments and just turning up on peoples doorsteps and making someone a dress or a pair of trousers within a couple of hours that just fitted perfectly. I love that side of it.
IAN: In terms of business, he didn’t produce the show at the beginning, so he’d never run out of money or have cash-flow problems. He probably never had money, but he never went bankrupt. And then at 27 you get a gig at Givenchy. And Lee just used that money to create McQueen. It was really hardcore.
What really set him apart from his contemporaries when McQueen was starting out?
IAN: Some of the themes that he brought onto the catwalk, like Island Rape…People used the catwalk to demonstrate clothing and the craft, the style, the look – Lee wanted to tell stories I think. The show was completely part of the collection. I think he provoked people and made spectacles. He provoked conversation. At the beginning of his career people would pay attention, people wanted to see what he would make.
PETER: He put everything into that storytelling. It wasn’t just his fashion designs – it was lighting, photography and music, dance and technology. No-one at the time was producing something quite that extraordinary. Or since. There’s been extravagant fashion shows but this was a different level. It was a form of art.