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bite

designer

profile

A

s one of the fashion design-

ers responsible for bringing

modern punk and new wave

fashion to the mainstream,

Vivienne Westwood has not

lost any of her influence. Even at the age of

75, she looks remarkably well and vibrant.

Her main thesis these days is on climate

change rather than the fashion career

that made her one of the most renowned

fashion designers of our time and awarded

her the title of Dame of the British Empire.

Her anarchic idealism is as alive and kicking

as it was when she and Malcolm McLaren

made their rebellious actions known over

four decades ago. These days, Westwood

leaves all the designing of the main collec-

tion to her husband Andreas Kronthaler

while she concentrates on her activism.

“I’m proud to be called an activist,” she

told

The Telegraph

in an interview two

years ago. “I have a lifetime of ideas about

how to make the world a better place. I’m

always worried. I wake up in the middle

of the night. But it’s good because I sort

things out. It’s been a build-up, having this

public face and the opportunity to speak.”

Along with McLaren, her then-lover and

business partner, Westwood created the

punk look for the Sex Pistols, the band

that he formed and managed, with safety

pins, ripped t-shirts and slogans. She said

of McLaren, “I felt there were so many

doors to open, and he had the key to all

of them. Plus, he had a political attitude

and I needed to align myself.” However,

behind closed doors, their partnership was

completely different to how it was por-

trayed in the media.Westwood explained

to

The Telegraph

that they had a love-hate

relationship and McLaren was extremely

cruel to her, making her cry every day,

until now, she says; she can’t cry any more.

“Malcolm was so bad to me. I would never

have told any of these things when he was

alive. He was very jealous of me. He would

say things like,‘She’s just a seamstress’ and

‘Vivienne would not be a designer if she’d

never met me.’” She went on to explain

how they would fight every day. “He used

to drive me mad. He used to be provoca-

tive and selfish and spiteful. He would try

and undermine your confidence and say

something that would make you feel bad.

All of the time.”

Speaking to the paper about her biography

book

Vivienne Westwood

written with Ian

Kelly, she said: “I’d been avoiding doing a

book for ages. Then another book came

out about me, and I didn’t like it. Andreas

said,‘You have to do your own’. And I said

the last thing I want to do is write about

myself. But when it came to it, I found it

interesting to explain things that I had

done, and to recall things when I was a

child.” Surprisingly, growing up during the

war influenced her design-wise. “I’m glad

I was born in that period,” she told the

paper. “I think its dreadful now – children

are inundated with all this rubbish, like

fuchsia-coloured plastic and pink bicycles

for little girls. It’s awful. Compare that with

a child growing up with nothing, but crawl-

ing on the floor with little Delft tiles, you

know those Dutch tiles where there’d be

a windmill or a falcon - wonderful things

to look at. I didn’t have anything around

me. No art. And my mother would always

read to us. That was important; it was how

I could discover art.”

Westwood initially started her career as a

primary school teacher. Soon after meeting

McLaren, the couple opened a shop called

‘Let It Rock’ in 1971 on Kings Road in

London’s Chelsea which at the time sold

Teddy Boy clothing. This changed to biker

clothes, zips and leather which prompted

the shop to be rebranded with a skull and

crossbones as well as a name change to

‘Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die’. Fol-

lowing this,Westwood and McLaren began

designing t-shirts with provocative mes-

sages that led to their prosecution under

the obscenity laws.They then transformed

the shop again and produced more hard-

core images. By 1974, the shop had been