Bowie & McQueen
This summer I’m working on a really fun translation project: a book of David Bowie interviews. The book is called The Last Interviews, which is a little misleading, since the interviews in the book span his whole career.
There’s the infamous BBC interview from 1964, where Bowie – then just David Jones – is being quizzed about his role as a spokesman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. There’s the equally infamous conversation between David Bowie and William Burroughs from 1974, where both men get more and more drunk as the evening progresses. There’s the Kurt Loder interview from Rolling Stone 1987, where Bowie is a lot more sober and eloquent than he was when he sat down with Burroughs and elaborated on the Ziggy Stardust persona. And then there’s the conversation between David Bowie and Alexander McQueen, where Bowie isn’t the one being interviewed – it’s the other way around.
The conversation between the musician and the fashion designer took place in 1996, shortly before Alexander McQueen took over as head designer at Givenchy. Dazed (then Dazed and Confused) printed the interview, and 20 years later it became available online. It’s easily one of my favourite Bowie interviews. The chemistry between the two artists is so apparent – all the way from Bowie’s opening question (‘Are you gay and do you do drugs?’) to their frank discussions about sexuality, to their plans for McQueen to make tour clothes for Bowie again (at this point he had already created the Union Jack coat made famous by the Earthlingcover).
A few weeks ago I went to see McQueen, the documentary about the late Alexander McQueen. Or Lee, as he’s mostly referred to in the film. There are no references to Bowie or Björk or Lady Gaga or any of the other celebrities he dressed and collaborated with – the designer himself takes center stage. As much as I would have wanted to see Bowie in full McQueen gear, I think leaving celebrities out of the film was wise choice. It leaves more space for Alexander McQueen, and the wonderful art he created.
Well, McQeen himself wasn’t so sure if it was art, or even that important. In the interview with Bowie, he says:
I don’t put such an importance on clothes, anyway. I mean at the end of the day they are, after all, just clothes and I can’t cure the world of illness with clothes. I just try to make the person that’s wearing them feel more confident in themselves because I am so unconfident. I’m really insecure in a lot of ways and I suppose my confidence comes out in the clothes I design anyway. I’m very insecure as a person.
To which Bowie responds: Aren’t we all?
Yes, aren't we all? I have to say - it is comforting to know that even artistic giants like Bowie and McQueen felt that way!