From her early collections like Buffalo Bill and Pirates, pictured above, and the beginnings of her shop – which changed its name over time from ‘Too fast to live, too young to die’ to ‘Sex’ amongst others – Westwood’s game has been one of questioning societal norms and exploring the way in which fashion gives voice to zeitgeist. One of the early proponents of punk and friend of the Sex Pistols, Westwood has been politically minded from the beginnings of her career.
Her ‘Storm in a Teacup’ collection in the 90s for instance, used suiting with exaggerated shoulders and nipped waits reminiscent both of turn of the century clothing the big shoulderpads of the 80s. Her rationale, if I remember correctly, was big shoulders in women’s fashion corresponded with times of affirmative action for women; suffrage in the late 1890s and corporate infiltration in the 1980s.
On Liberty, obviously named after John Stuart Mill’s treatise, has a surprisingly regal tenor considering the strictly democratic nature of Mill’s ideas. By using such an esteemed title for this collection, Westwood cleverly juxtaposes Naomi Campbell’s headgear with notions like free speech, the open exchange of ideas and the importance of freedom to the individual. Pure genius.
Again in her Fall/Winter collection this year the shoulders and waist were exaggerated in this black dress which could be considered conservative but the cut, the cowl neck and ruched waist provide visual points of interest.
Also this season were big hats and fanciful tailoring. While I wouldn’t venture on the street in an entire ensemble the insertion of one or two of these items into a contemporary wardrobe would be most effective.
Her influence is obvious in designers from Alexander McQueen and Galliano to Gaultier and Tom Ford and her unswerving passion and vivacity certainly give me hope for the kind of living (and shagging) I can look forward to as a sexagenarian.
For more information visit Viviennewestwood.com, it’s a fantastic website with a fascinating archive.