People I'd Like To Work With: Vivienne Westwood

This post is about Vivienne Westwood, how I was attracted by her back catalogue, and stayed for the environmental message.


As a glossy-eyed kid, dabbling in punk get-up and my older brother's CD collection, I decided that Vivienne Westwood was my favourite fashion designer. As I grew up and absorbed more of fashion and costume history, my obsession only deepened. While its a bit of a trope to say she set trends rather than follow them, I particularly like how her work always seemed to keep the industry at arms length. From DIY-beginnings of punk style, to the catwalk pirates, or to doll-like corsets and panniers, her clothes never took themselves too seriously, but always toed that commercial line between fashion and out-and-out costume. She marketed the character as well as the clothes, but always as a compliment to the customer's personality, not as a prescription. 

These days, her image has a new facet. The unconventional cuts acquired through the punk times, or the more archaic styles, have evolved into modern shapes, and her environmental message has become as important a part of her work as her design output. She wants us to buy less, and buy responsibly, and she advocates the need to stop climate change. For such a long-established and well-respected figure in the industry, her environmental rhetoric carries a lot of influence. She penned The Climate Revolution Charter and speaks passionately about saving all aspects of the environment in crisis, from the rainforests to the arctic

As a professional searching for a meaningful role in this industry which is so damaging to the planet, I am left with too many questions about how her very public calls to action don't align with practices in her own company. I applaud her using her platform to promote, publicise, and generally draw attention to the climate crisis, but the fashion industry has to radically change itself, business by business, brand by brand, in order to save the planet. If anything is going to happen, or if you want us to believe that anything can change, please, Ms. Westwood, start in your own backyard.