Friday, September 27, 2013

Women We Love: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood caused a bit of ruckus after her recent London runway show. She was quoted as saying, "Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody's buying far too many clothes. I mean, I know, I'm lucky. I can just take things and borrow them and I'm just okay, but I hate having too many clothes. And I think that poor people should be even more careful."

Good advice, you say? Except for that bit about "poor people", which makes me feel poor because of course I'm not rich. Hers are thoughts to ponder indeed.

Don't we all have too many clothes? The time is coming when I am seriously going to perform an exorcism on my closet and see what's left after the dust settles. I'm embarrassed at what I've forgotten or have worn once or— gulp— still carries price tags. There are things I love and things I loathe and things with which I feel no attachment whatever.

What has tied everyone's knickers in a knot (I think Dame Vivienne would like that expression) is the fact that she is indeed a DBE, a legendary designer and still in the business of selling clothes. "The Last Punk"(as she calls herself) was really the first (successful) punk, teaming with Malcolm McClaren in 1971 to make clothes for his boutique at 430 King's Road, London. McClaren was the impresario of the Sex Pistols, the most notorious and commercially viable of punk rockers. That same success would seem an antithesis to the punk movement, but plenty of "regular folk" delighted in dressing the part.

With Malcolm McClaren circa 1971
With husband Andreas Kronthaler in 2011

Westwood was serious about her embrace of the punk style movement. Over the years she has used fashion to express her political and human rights beliefs. I'd go so far as to credit her with inventing the slogan t-shirt (what would Urban Outfitters be without them?) She didn't invent punk style— it came from the kids, the street, the club-goers with little money and lots of safety pins— her touch gave it a kind of beauty. Over time she has woven this aesthetic with Scottish tartan elements and seriously tricky tailoring and produced some gorgeous clothing worn by celebrities and available in locations from the original King's Road store (now called World's End) to boutiques in Milan, Paris, Los Angeles and Hawaii.

The Dame has a few other things to say worth hearing:

On aging:
"Everybody looks like clones and the only people you notice are my age. I don't notice anybody unless they look great, and every now and again they do, and they are usually 70."

On being controversial: 
"The only possible effect one can have on the world is through unpopular ideas."

On looking good: 
"You have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes."

On fashion:
"I never look at fashion magazines. I find them incredibly boring."

"It doesn’t mean therefore you have to just buy anything cheap. Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Don’t keep buying just for the sake of it."

"I just think people should invest in the world. Don’t invest in fashion, but invest in the world."

On the next generation: 
"I don't have faith in young people any more. I don't waste time trying to communicate with them."

On the importance of looks:
"I think dress, hairstyle and make-up are the crucial factors in projecting an attractive persona and give one the chance to enhance one's best physical features."

At 72 Vivienne continues to promote her causes, still pulls out all the stops on the runway and shows no signs of retiring. Nor should she. As a delightful, quirky, Creative she is proof that who you are has no term limits.

Perhaps her remarks about buying less are not so disingenuous. Once I clean out my closet and save up perhaps I can own a genuine Vivienne Westwood myself.

I'll make room for this...


  1. Not sure I always like all of her designs however she cuts an excellent jacket and I like her philosophy. Less is definitely more. I intend to do a wardrobe sort this PM.

  2. I admire much of what she does and says, but it's sad, to me, that she finds nothing much of value in a whole generation. Seems real evidence of getting old -- rather than attending to my dress as a way of expressing my interest in the world, I hope I'll concentrate on maintaining connections with young people (not that it needs to be either/or, but she does speak of "time wasted" implying that she's saving it for something better. . . )