An Interview with Dame Westwood
Did anyone catch the interview with Vivienne Westwood in The Sunday Times Magazine yesterday? If you didn’t, and have a copy nearby, I’d suggest pick it up for a read. I found it quite odd altogether. The interview was largely surrounding her current ethical trade work in Kenya, where Nairobi workers make accessories out of rubbish, however it provided quite an intriguing insight into the Madame of fashion, and some of her more noteworthy opinions. Perhaps I never bothered to look past the mad crab-coloured hair, the wrinkles of age and experience, the English heritage character she displays, all giving her the impression of an eccentric Mother Hubbard, but reading the interview showed me quite a different side to Westwood. Below, some extracts of the interview,
(On her ‘Manifesto’ she wrote a few years back) ’She wrote it to persuade people to stop shopping, a cause she passionately believes in as part of saving the planet, even though she owns a global fashion empire and travels widely to promote it. ”Well, it is a problem”, she says. ”Do I just close the business and say, ”I’m closing the business because we should not be producing these things? And, um, that there’s too much rubbish in the world, too much stuff in the world?” She pauses. Realises I will say ”yes”. Says ”Okay. Now you’ve put me on the defensive, and I don’t like to be on the defensive. I do say whoever makes these clothes is getting a decent wage” She breaks off. ”Oh, I don’t know whether I should be doing it, really. I really don’t. Hmmm.”
(On her partner, and creative director Andreas Kronthaler) ‘Andreas can be ”very bossy”, says Vivienne. There are various accounts of him screaming at her during photoshoots, shoving her out on the catwalk with a slap on the bottom. I am pretty sure he calls most of the shops, while Vivienne sits upstairs making dresses out of sodden beer mats and tears. In the past 15 years, he has ruthlessly restored the brand, reissuing her best ideas season after season with great success. She now has four lines, plus bridalwear, accessories and perfumes, and a turnover of £20m.’
(On her opinions) ‘Some of her opinions are genuinely unpalatable; when I ask her if women should worry about fashion and being fat, she says; ”I think you look a lot better if you are thin” She is astonishingly rude about her staff, pushing Christopher [her assistant] around and saying that Iris the pattern cutter is the only saving grace among them, an ”angel, a gift from God”. The rest are ”adequate”. She crosses her arms. ”That’s all I’m going to say. They’re…fine”
(On hating her job) ‘She now insulates herself against the ”terrible chore” of designing and assorted publicity by writing and boring on about issues’
(On fashion) ‘She says she isn’t interested in fashion; when I ask her if curves are back, she says ”I don’t care.” But then she sets out a catalogue, pores over it urgently and lasciviously, saying she must have ”this suit, which I can just about wear on my bicycle”.
A film on Westwood’s ‘saving the world through fashion’ scheme (watch here) , follows the designer, and her team’s, nine day visit to Nairobi to visit the workers, and throws up some interesting ideas on giving people control over their lives with an income, as opposed to charity, which makes people dependent. The Director of Marketing also differentiates between not finding a way to make a cheap product, but finding a way that it is ethically made. All of which is admirable and innovative.
(On the photoshoot) ‘In another she poses in diamante with a black girl in a wedding dress, in front of a row of boggled workers, who have, no doubt, spent the entire day turning used Petit Filou youghurt cartons into key fobs, for a wage of about $10, for her to sell in her shops at £30 only to keep all the profits.’
…though perhaps, as per the interview, full of contradictions.
Check out the collection here. Images scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, shot by Jurgen Teller.