When they say that wonderful and insightful Karl Lagerfeld is the godfather of fashion, there’s nothing more to do but say that she is the godmother of ambitious fashion. And she is Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Happily married to a man 25 years younger, a fashion designer from Derbyshire, a businesswoman, a punk and garden appreciator, an innovator (in every sense) and a climate change warrior: is there something in this world this woman can’t and doesn’t know how to do?
Dame Vivienne Westwood was born on April 8, 1941 as Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire. In 1958 she and her family moved to Harrow in London, where she studied fashion at the Harrow School of Art at the University of Westminster. In the early 70’s, world of a country girl began to turn. With high interests in designing punk and new wave fashion, in 1981 Vivienne had her first catwalk show called “Pirates”. Now, in her early seventies, she owns exclusive boutiques in London, Milan and Leeds, franchise stores in Manchester, Nottingham, York and Cardiff, and showrooms in Paris, Los Angeles and Honolulu.
She is 72, but her body screams 30. Individualistic, strong and highly engaged for spreading the wellbeing in the world, Dame Vivienne should be a role model for Londoners. “I look in the mirror in the morning, I put my makeup on, and I think about how old I’m getting, and then I forget about it and that’s that. I’m just quite happy and satisfied with myself”, said Westwood to Interview magazine.
Often the main protagonist of her own adverts, with a huge grin on her face, in the UK she will not be remembered only for her designs or the pure eccentricity, but for not wearing any undies in the Buckingham Palace in 1992 when she received her OBE reward from the Queen.
Named best British fashion designer three times, Westwood’s perspective on aesthetics and beauty are not easily definable. A lot of people would agree with most of the things she labels as beautiful, but you certainly cannot find the common ground for that. As much as she eccentric, when you see her in person or in a video interview, you can see that she doesn’t tend to own the place. She likes to talk, but she won’t steal the thunder because she can. She will do it because of her naturalism.
Her contradictoriness has been a subject for years, especially due to the fact that Dame Westwood urged people not to buy clothes, even though she’s a fashion designer whose designs are not as affordable as we would like. In 2008 she was widely criticised for using Roma gypsies as models for her “Tolerance” show in Milan. “I don’t feel comfortable defending my clothes. For 15 years I hated fashion. It’s not very intellectual, and I wanted to read, not make fashion. It was something I was good at; it wasn’t all of me,” said Vivienne to the Guardian.
It’s not enough to say that she reshaped the fashion silhouette without obeying a single rule (if there are any). She has also redefined a whole generation. And that’s exactly why fashion industry cannot have enough of her. “I wouldn’t shorten my skirts. I just wouldn’t. I was the last one. Everybody was taking their pencil skirts and chopping them shorter, turning up the hems to be mini skirts. I was quite shocked when my friends sat down and you could see her knickers”, said Westwood to the Gentlewoman while reminiscing the mini skirts era.
In order to “wake people up to climate change”, at the beginning of March this year, Vivienne shaved her head. As a passionate environmentalist, Vivienne takes her role as a climate warrior very seriously. When asked about her legacy for the Interview magazine, she said that she hopes she will live long enough to see people finally being serious in the confrontation of climate change problem. “Because if they do, then I think they’ll manage to stop it”, said Westwood.
She came back to spotlight (I’m not entirely sure she ever left it) this year by designing the Long Ivory Court wedding gown for Miss Piggy for 2014 film “Muppets Most Wanted”. When asked by Miss Piggy for Harper’s Bazaar about her inspiration for the wedding gown, Westwood replied: “The dress is one of my favourite styles. It’s called the Court dress and is inspired by 17th-century English royalty and the court of King Charles II. It has been designed especially for you in a white pearl sequin fabric made from recycled water bottles. It’s the perfect choice for a royal sow.” Recycled water bottles? Dame Westwood is the only one who can get away with this.
Her priority nowadays is climate change and campaigns she participates in. Besides working on two collections and two shows, she is currently working on her memoirs, due to be launched in October 2014.