“The first impact you should have in fashion is about making beauty, it’s about the beautiful woman. It’s about clothes that suit. That’s what chic means. It’s you. You can tell without the signature that it’s right… My work is rooted in English tailoring…and in the past. When you look to the past you start to see standards of excellence, the good taste on the way things are done and put together, formed. By trying to copy technique, you build your own technique.” Vivienne Westwood, from the book Vivienne Westwood, by Ian Kelly and Vivienne Westwood
I could barely put down this book once I started reading it. It’s that good! And this, as you may very well know, is hardly a common thing when it comes to books about fashion. But Vivienne Westwood’s is the kind of fashion that changed the course of the modern world when it emerged in the 1970s as part of the youth cult co-created and styled by her and which brought so many changes on the cultural, musical and political scenes. Neither memoir nor critical biography, the book was written by Ian Kelly, interlinked with Westwood’s own voice through her numerous quotes included, who nicely balances and aptly examines the professional and private life of the British designer. But of course it’s not just the writing that makes the book good, but Vivienne’s own extraordinary story, from the non-conformist child born in a working class family from Derbyshire, to the co-creator of the British punk movement and then the founder of a global luxury brand and the outspoken activist and climate revolutionary that she is today.
This is a revelatory book – painting a complex picture of the designer’s path and place in fashion, her hardwork and dedication playing the biggest role in that – and a very honest book – it sets the record straight when it comes to Westwood’s tumultuous relationship and creative partnership with Malcolm McLaren (and she does it by respecting his memory and giving him the credit he was due), which has always been a subject of interest and controversy to many. It’s pretty much what I was hoping for.
I think it’s the author who sums up best Vivienne Westwood’s designs: “Vivienne’s fusion of inventiveness and practicality, her fascination with silhouette, historical cuts and with fabrics, often British – tweeds, tartans, silk taffeta – combine the fearless unconformity of her punk years with a sense of tradition and with the verve and wit-in-sexuality that is pure British.”
photos by me