As an immersive exhibition of anarchic pieces from Vivienne Westwood’s archive collections is set to shake things up at Bread & Butter, plus her panel talk "Get a Life", we sat down with fashion’s original rebel for an exclusive interview
From Naomi Campbell’s epic catwalk fall in nine-inch platforms to Pharrell’s infamous Westwood Mountain hat – and who can forget THAT Sex and the City wedding dress moment? – Vivienne Westwood’s designs demand as much attention now as they did in each of the five decades that the designer has ruled British fashion.
Vivienne Westwood began designing in 1971 along with her then partner Malcolm McLaren – the self-proclaimed inventor of punk- when London was at the forefront of cultural trends. They shocked seventies London when they opened their King’s Road shop, originally known as “Let It Rock”, selling 1950s Rock n’ Roll records and clothing. In 1972 the shop was renamed “Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die”, selling Zoot suits, clothing with zips and chains as slogan T-shirts. This was followed by “Sex” in 1974 with its provocative clothing including rubber, leather bondage, T-shirts with zips and holes, bold slogans and pornographic images. With 1976 came punk and “Seditionaries” which saw Westwood and McLaren redefine a street culture of their own. This was followed in 1981 by “World’s End” which remains the shop’s name to this day.
Radical designs that unified fashion with music, combining fetish trademarks, heritage fabrics and outrageous accessories became her signatures, which she carried on in her own label. Adapting to the times in terms of style, her outspoken rebellion has never died down and she communicates her political and environmental stances and activism through her catwalk shows and collections.
At this year’s Bread & Butter, expect original ideas and opinions as the designer herself joins a panel discussion. Plus, don’t miss an exhibition of her designs, where visitors will become immersed in the world of Westwood. In anticipation of the festival, we caught up with the fashion legend here.
What’s bold about being an activist?
Well, I’m trying to change the world – and to save the world.
Do you wish there were more people like you in the fashion industry?
In fashion, I’m about designers wanting to make beautiful clothes at the right price. I’m also working with the British Fashion Council to get UK designers and retailers to SWITCH to using green energy.
Are you always looking at your brand and how it best relates to the world at the moment?
What I want is less product – I want quality more than quantity. This means having less things in my collections but hopefully they’re stronger. That’s what I’m trying to do at the moment and I think that’s very good for the environment.
Do you feel proud that you’re one of the only designers of the 20th and 21st century who has really created your own language?
My clothes are very theatrical. You’re playing a part, but that part is you. It’s a you that suddenly becomes interesting because it’s adapted another persona onto itself. It’s a story.