Buy less, choose well, make it last.
If you identify yourself with these words, you are part of a more aware and selective generation when shopping fashion.
And no one more than Vivienne Westwood, who said them, can teach the power of fashion over culture and society.
From being a teacher living in quiet Derbyshire to becoming an influent, powerful woman, whose iconic style has been the voice for debates and political and environmental discussions: the most dissident British designer is the symbol that commitment, talent and dedication might take you far from where you expected...
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Vivienne Westwood was born on April, 8th 1941 in the United Kingdom, with an apparently predictable destiny: becoming a teacher, a wife and a mother.
In 1962, she makes her own wedding gown for her wedding with Derek Westwood. She creates jewelry in her freetime, persuaded that art will never be her job.
Then she meets Malcolm McLaren, in 1965. He will be the denotator for her talent to explode.
With the common aim of investigating rebellion without the influence of the hippie movement, they open their first store "Let It Rock" in Kings Road, in 1971.
Hence, Westwood becomes the emblem of continual social movements and changes, which is reflected in the store, changing name depending on the mood of the collection of the season. In 1972, leather and zips are background behind the name Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, while in 1974 the name is changed to Sex, with provocative t-shirts and fetish references.
The birth and success of the Sex Pistols, who regularly hang out at the store and whose McLaren is the manager, are intertwined with the story of Westwood: together, they create the whole punk rock universe, where the group is the sound, and Westwood is the look.
In 1976, the store is renamed to Seditionaries, with a reference to the Sex Pistols, taking the punk aesthetics to the streets of the Great Britain, with bondage-inspired pieces, (much) tartan and DIY-ish holes.
For some time, Westwood keeps focusing her creative investigation on young countercultures and the world of music and clubs.
However, the designer starts slowly to address her interest to history and culture from the past and how they connect with contemporary society.
This more personal and intimate change of vision comes right after the break-up with McLaren and with the punk movement slowly softening its impact.
During 1980s, Westwood releases one of her most famous collections, the “Mini-Crini”: down the catwalk, a piece made of juxtapositions, half crinoline (the rigid structure making skirts look pompous in the XIX Century), half miniskirt.
The collection “Harris Tweed”, includes the most famous British fabric, tweed, and corsets and rocking horse shoes.
The common thread of these successful collections is indeed the connection and conflict between modernity and classical references.
By using the symbols of aristocracy and the culture of the past, Westwood offers a new vision of history and his relation with contemporary times.
Westwood fashion is, from its very beginning, more than aesthetics. It's a political act.
An example is her battle for the environment, which resonates in the "Red Label" collection of 2016 (models walked down the catwalk protesting against fracking, a technique of extraction of natural gas and oil) and in the design of t-shirts for funding local tribes in the rainforest. Today, Vivienne Westwood fashion is cruelty-free.
Vivienne Westwood's energy can't be restricted within the boundaries of being "a designer". Her creativity shocks the public not just for the sake of it, but to inspire change. As a woman, she is the proof that determination can take beyond the predetermined path, if you give yourself the chance to dream big.
Because, like Westwood said, “when in doubt, overdress”.
Pictures in this article come from the exhibition “Vivienne Westwood: Queen of Revolution” curated by A.N.G.E.L.O. vintage archive, courtesy of Future Vintage Festival in Padova, where the exhibition took place in September, 2019.