Vivienne Westwood is honoured at SCAD Museum of Art in an exhibition celebrating decades of provocative fashion from the industry’s enduring maverick. We reflect on some of the designer’s most inspiring and iconic designs.
By Natalie Trevis
Curated by André Leon Talley, SCAD Museum of Art exhibits more than twenty-five of Dame Vivienne Westwood’s most iconic designs in Dress Up Story – 1990 Until Now. Also the recipient of the 2015 André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award, Westwood and her creative partner (and husband), Andreas Kronthaler, are never far from the limelight with their subversive and avant-garde creations. In a sea of slick modernity, Westwood can still be relied upon to bring something diverse, something meaningful. ‘My clothes are more subversive than they have ever been,’ Westwood said. ‘In a world of conformity, they offer real choice.’
Presenting creations with theatricality and romance in spades, starting with the SS91 collection Cut, Slash and Pull, Talley describes the design of the exhibition as ‘a postmodern romp of a weekend party’. And we’d expect nothing less than a hell-raising party from Westwood, who often polarises with her forthright views, complaining vociferously of the lack of style in society and ‘all this disposable crap’. She is also a fervent environmental activist, calling for nuclear disarmament and recently making a headline-inspiring political donation of £300,000 to the UK’s Green Party.
Westwood has always used her designs as an outlet for her passions. She travelled with photographer Juergen Teller to Africa in 2011 to work on her Ethical Fashion Africa collection which used fair trade methods to create handbags, later celebrated London’s Olympic year with a SS12 collection dedicated to the Games and then courted controversy with t-shirts supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (a personal friend whom she visits religiously once a month). Her punk-movement attitude remains as boundless now as it was when she first started designing clothes in 1971, opening her first shop, Let It Rock, on King’s Road in London, dressing the Sex Pistols and a decade later securing her place in British fashion history with the seminal Pirate collection that redefined 80s glamour.
Looking ahead, Westwood will pare back her collections in the short term, combining the four Vivienne Westwood labels (Red Label, Gold Label, Man and Anglomania) into two and, in the spirit of anti-overconsumption that she so often promotes, cutting down on her accessories ranges. ‘Buy less, choose well and make it last,’ is Westwood’s mantra. If her latest collection is a marker of what lies beyond AW15, Westwood will surely continue to innovate. Unisex toyed with masculine and feminine proportions (trousers for women and dresses for men), and was inspired as much by the couple’s favourite French King, Louis XIV, as by the gender fluidity that is slowly gaining mainstream acceptance. At the age of seventy-four and leading one of the last independent fashion labels in the world, Vivienne Westwood is anti-establishment fashion royalty for the past, present and future.
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, Dress Up Story – 1990 Until Now, 19 May – 13 September 2015 at the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia.