British fashion’s finest ambassador, Dame Vivienne Westwood continues to draw upon her iconic punk status in her latest collections, more than 40 years since first moving to London.
The opening of Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Kings Road shop ‘Let it Rock’ in 1971 was to form the foundations of the influential label we see today. It was here Westwood developed her distinctive style expressing politically charged messages through pop culture inspired garments. Her first catwalk show in 1981 – entitled ‘Pirate’ – debuted a strong collection influenced by the burgeoning youth movement and progressive street culture, juxtaposed with traditional techniques which paved the way for the extraordinary collections to come. Calling upon and modernising Britain’s finest wools, tartans and tweeds with honed 17th-18th Century cutting and draping techniques, Westwood encompasses and typifies ‘Anglomania’.
Ever the activist, Westwood often hijacks her eponymous catwalk shows to promote her Active Resistance policies outlined in her much publicized manifesto. Her commitment to environmental campaigning has become an additional asset to the brand, with her most recently and somewhat controversially, encouraging consumers to ‘stop buying clothes’.
James Lovelock’s groundbreaking Gaia hypothesis (centered around issues such as climate change) continues to be a huge influence on Westwood, with slogans such as “Loyalty 2 Gaia” and “+5degrees” appearing on t-shirts. In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with Liberty, a civil rights group to design charity slogan t-shirts and kidswear boldly stating, “I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me”. Westwood’s recent ‘STOP SHOPPING’ plea on BBC London Radio shocked the world of fashion and highlights the designer’s devotion to the cause – in some ways shooting herself in the foot telling her shoppers to stop buying.
High impact advertising campaigns, featuring the designer alongside celebrities such as Pamela Anderson and ubër photographer, Juergen Teller are fantastically inventive and perfectly highlight the importance of both tongue-in-cheek humour and fantasy within her collections – and the fashion world for that matter.
Author: Ester Kneen
First image depicting the ‘Pirate’ collection, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, with additional campaign images courtesy of Vivienne Westwood