Kinvara Balfour
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary
Alexander McQueen documentary

insider information


The documentary film on everyone’s lips right now is Alexander McQueen. Spanning the breadth of ‘Lee McQueen’s’ illustrous fashion career, it covers everything- from his humble East London beginnings to the iconic graduation show at Central Saint Martins, up until his last days working on his label before his suicide. Ahead of the London premier tonight, Suzi Boyle (editor of The Chosen Club) caught up with Kinvara Balfour (the film’s executive producer) in Soho House, Hollywood, to get an exclusive inside scoop on the journey behind the documentary.

Suzi: Tell me! How did you get involved in the Alexander McQueen doc?

Kinvara: “It’s a bit of a long story. I’ve done speeches around the world on fashion and trends and, regardless of who I was addressing, I’d always wrap up on the note that if there is one thing you do, it’s to see an Alexander McQueen show. I’m a fan. I’m not a Vogue editor who’d critique his shows- I just have always loved the showmanship of his work.”

“My friend was working on The Churchill film with Brian Cox and I was going to the screening. I met the producer and asked “What is this McQueen show I saw you are doing online?” He said: “That news was just released last night!” And I said: “Now listen, I think I can really help you with this.””

“I weirdly, despite never knowing McQueen himself, have known so many people in his life- Philip Treacy, Daphne Guinness. It just became really clear that my passion and the way Ian Bonhôte, one of the film’s directors, wanted to tell the story was so in alignment.”

Suzi: Was the McQueen brand involved in the making at all?

Kinvara: “A lot of people ask this question! And the truth is that, if the brand was involved, it would have been a very different film. The brand would want to make a film about the future, not the past. Ian Bonhôte wanted to make a film about Lee McQueen, not Sarah Burton (the current creative director).”

“We have huge respect for the brand, I still shop there a lot, but we wanted to showcase the old pieces throughout McQueen’s lifetime, not the current collection. ”

Suzi: How did you source the vintage pieces?

Kinvara: “McQueen pieces now sell online for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s this amazing private collector, who no-one really knows about, called Jennifer Zuiker, she had collected a lot of his work- some amazing pieces. I’d met her through Philip Treacy as a friend and asked her if we could shoot some of the collection.”

“We did a really amazing shoot here in LA, using these plastic mannequins – which are now in my garage! But it appears at the end of the film and, for me, it’s the most special feeling that I could have contributed that.”

“In the Plato Atlantis show – which was his last show and arguably his most amazing. There were these armidilo shoes that the models wore. I was obsessed with finding them for our shoot. I believe Lady Gaga has all of them, I emailed the girls that do all her set designs at Lobster Rye – I kept emailing them but sadly she was just too busy.”

Suzi: What was your biggest surprise during filming?

Kinvara: “It was weird people came onto our path who were meant to. Two of the key people in the film, who I had never met before, is his sister Janet and her son Gary McQueen, who’s Lee’s nephew. They’ve never really spoken before.”

“Gary is a beautiful designer in his own right. He did the skull poster that is currently all over the underground in London. It was poignant and lovely that he was so involved. They both speak so eloquently. You can tell Janet is still so in awe of her brother’s talent and everything he created.”

Suzi: Was it hard to get people to open up about their personal relationship with him? I can imagine a lot of the information is very sensitive and might still be raw.

Kinvara: “The film is truly a celebration of his life- there’s no misery to it, just reflection and the opportunity for people who wanted to to share. A lot of people didn’t feel ready to talk straight after he died in 2010, they were obviously grieving and in pain and a little wary of the press but they now felt ready to pay homage.”

“Some people chose not to be part of it. The film references the stylist Katie England, she chose not to be part of it despite being such a big part of his life. As did Philip Treacy. It’s such a personal decision, some people felt it wasn’t for them or that film wasn’t their medium.”

Suzi: What did you personally learn through being part of the film?

Kinvara: “I feel like I learn this on all the projects I work on, but that all that you have to do in life is ask. People do come if it is the right vibe and the right energy for them. If you have to fight and push and fight and push, then it’s probably just not meant to be.”

“The key is having the courage to ask in the first place.”

Suzi: What is your favorite part of the documentary?

Kinvara: “There’s great archive footage of Alexander McQueen’s shows, which as you and I know, if you have never seen one- you just have to. In those days there weren’t as many cameras at shows, there’s some really rare vintage footage, especially of the early years. It is very special.”

“Nowadays, the conglomerates that run the fashion industry don’t give designers the free license to be so creative – shocking or otherwise. McQueen did shock. He always made you feel something. It was just his sheer appetite for showmanship that I still miss.”

Suzi: Does the film touch upon the immense pressure put on designers today?

Kinvara: “It does, designers that are having to produce four shows a year are getting so burnt out! And there’s a wider message there too that we can all relate to, I’ve definitely been burnt out in my own small way by running internet companies. The speed at which we all live at now is so fast-paced.”

“With McQueen, for me, it’s completely unsurprising that a man with so much talent and so much genius had days where he felt low and depleted. How you chose to replete yourself is obviously a choice. Now the world is much more aware of yoga and meditation and juice, in those days people were partying hard. Drugs were around. The film touches upon that but doesn’t paint it as a drug induced downward spiral.”

Suzi: Tell me about the co-directors?

Kinvara: “Both men are so eloquent and thoughtful and neither work in the fashion industry, which I loved. There are a lot of people who wanted to make this film- it’s another thing to actually do it. I’m so surprised at how fast it happened. It was talked about last year and now here we are ready for the big screen.”

“Peter is the son of Joseph, Joseph Ettedgu the fashion designer, he initially came on to craft the script but the dynamic shifted and he became co-director.”

“McQueen was so much more than fashion- although his fashion was exquisite. I love that they took the cinematic approach. The film opens on Leicester Square – it’s funny everyone’s immediate reaction is: “Oh is it for Netflix?!” I am constantly saying: “No no no it’s actually going to cinema and we are having a proper premier.””

What are you wearing to the premier?

Kinvara: “I’m wearing vintage McQueen and Shaun Leane, a British jeweler and long- standing collaborator of McQueen’s, jewelry – it just felt really apt.”

Suzi Boyle Suzi Boyle

Suzi is Editor-In-Chief of The Chosen Club and Executive Coach at She Chose Love. She works with high-achieving females to help them focus and achieve their biggest life goals. Suzi lives in LA but works and travels globally.