A few weeks ago, I got to watch the documentary Vivienne Westwood: Do It Yourself. I’m a HUGE Vivienne Westwood fan. If was only allowed to wear the designs of one person, I would definitely pick Vivienne Westwood. Part of why I like her looks so much is that they are very feminine, very artistic, while still having an element of rebellion. (New to my site? You should also look at my post Philip Guston & Vivienne Westwood) Really, I didn’t know much about her personality before watching the documentary. But now I really love her! She is so intelligent, sassy, and kind.
The film follows Westwood around for the period of 1 year. It’s a really intimate look at her daily life. She actually starts designing each collection the same way that Madeline Vionnet did – with half-sized mannequins (see the image below). She explains this is a particularly helpful method to use when she doesn’t know where to start. She will simple take muslin and start cutting and draping it over the tiny form.
“The more you know about what hasn’t been done, the more you know the story you can tell. The art is that its trial and error, it is a building up. That’s what technique is, a building up to know what will work and develop.”
Next, Westwood rides her bicycle in heels to her afternoon signing lesson. Aside from being amazingly charming, you start to get a sense of how intelligent she is. Westwood is committed to lifelong learning. This is exemplified in her singing lessons, but she also starts to discuss serious subjects like history, literature, and art. She has a clear philosophy designing and life in general. I like that she doesn’t see life and work as separate things:
“You have to try to understand the world. If you can, then you have an anchor. You can make a story from it. It inhabits a certain world of possibilities.”
She goes on to explain how a lot of her designs are influenced by Aldous Huxley. This British author said that the world suffers from three evils: Nationalistic Idolatry, Non-Stop Distraction, Organized Lying. These three evils are the root of propaganda. Westwood really takes these to heart, and agrees that the worst evil is non-stop-distraction. She uses these ideas to form her collection. She tries to design clothing that is an active resistance against propaganda.
Her clothing is really fun. It mixes and matches classic tartans and argyle patterns with street style elements. Some fabrics have graffiti like scribbles. The shoes have impossible buckles and straps. Pretty much everything I love all rolled into one outfit.
But she really had me when she explained how she felt about art: “If art is alive, the world will change. No art? No progress. ” I couldn’t agree more.