Dame Vivienne Westwood’s life has been inimitable to say the least. This is a woman who without which punk – quite possibly the most important of all fashion movements – would never have been born, and whose contribution to the sartorial landscape goes far beyond just corsets and safety-pins, which is why we are so excited that the designer has decided to reveal, for the first time, her exciting life story in an autobiography simply titled Vivienne Westwood.
Vivienne Westwood is viewed as a political standpoint, spearheading fashion with a voice and using the catwalk as a soap box to vocalise her views. Her tumultuous marriage to Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, decades-long position at the top of the fashion game and fiery activism has made her a truly unique tour de force – so it’s with baited breath that we’ve awaited her autobiography.
With the help of notable historian Ian Kelly, the memoir is written in the third person, often swinging between both Kelly and Westwood’s voices, too. “Don’t talk to me now, Ian, I’m really, really busy,” is in fact the first words we hear from the designer – suitably forthright coming from the pied piper of punk.
As well as containing verses by both Westwood and Kelly, the designer’s eclectic group of friends (her comrades include Naomi Campbell, Prince Charles, Jerry Hall and Julian Assange) also contribute to the book with unique letters and stories, offering a truly colouful insight into her life – from her humble beginnings to her dominating the fashion industry.
The Derbyshire-born red-haired icon said: “Ian and I are working together on this and I am excited that this will be my story, the story nobody ever did before.”
It’s comforting to know she’s not lost one bit of the renegade spirit that made her. These days the 73 year old still courts controversy. She continues to channel her status quo, challenging it into eco-activism, human rights and, most recently, the championing of Scottish independence. A surprising move from someone so instrumental in crafting British culture as we know it (often incorporating the Union Jack in her designs and even calling one of her diffusion lines Anglomania in the process).
We should know by now to expect the unexpected when it comes to all things Vivienne Westwood. After all, shock is one of the foundations of her house and legacy; everything from opening the infamous clothing emporium Sex on the King’s Road, London, in the 1980s to being photographed as Margaret Thatcher on the cover of Tatler in April 1989.
There’s hardly a person out there who represents British eccentricity, stoicism and wit in quite the same way. Everything she’s done, from stamping her ad campaigns with Amnesty-backed calls to arms, to epitomising a modern form of feminism, has been achieved with as much humour as passion. A true iconoclast, and living legend, her new autobiography is bound to be an eye-opening rollercoaster, and you can bet your pirate boots she hasn’t held back. Vivienne Westwood, published by Picador is out now.
Here’s an amazingly honest interview about fashion with Jonathan Ross:
Vivienne Westwood about her career progression, hobbies and people she met along the way: