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“The only reason I'm in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity',” Vivienne Westwood defiantly declared in the late 1970s, a time in which she was cut, pasting and safety-pinning punk archetypes from the infamous 430 King's Road space, Seditionaries: Clothes for Heroes. Provocative then, now, and forever.
Ever since Westwood opened her first shop, Let It Rock, on London's Kings Road in 1971 with her then partner Malcolm McLaren, she has challenged conventions, rubbed out conformity, and rewritten the rulebook. As soon as she presented her first catwalk collection, entitled Pirate, for autumn/winter 1981, she established herself as one of the most thought-provoking and influential fashion designers in the world with garments that evoked an age of highwaymen, dandies and buccaneers. Then, from Seditionaries to Punkature, Mini-Crini to Cut, Slash and Pull, Les Femmes ne connaissant pas toute leur coquetterie and beyond, the Derby-born, London-based icon that is Dame Vivienne Westwood has become the anti-establishment British institution – in 1992 when she collected her OBE from the Queen she infamously did so without her knickers and twirled round in the courtyard to reveal all. Three years before this moment, Vivienne met Andreas Kronthaler, who would later become her husband and long-time design partner, as well as Creative Director of the brand.
“I've constantly tried to provoke people into thinking afresh and for themselves, to escape their inhibitions and programming,” she explained in the show notes to the V&A’s 2004 exhibition, Vivienne Westwood: 30 Years in Fashion – the largest exhibition ever devoted to a living British fashion designer. Vivienne Westwood has, and always will be, about more than producing clothes and accessories. Whether on the catwalks of Paris and London or suspending herself in a birdcage protesting outside the Old Bailey, Westwood’s power to provoke persists and prevails. Aged 79 years young and with Andreas by her side, she continues to ignite imaginations and accelerate awareness of environmental and human rights issues.
“We just had to include Vivienne Westwood in our ARCHIVE series,” Reece Crisp, LN-CC’s Head of Buying, Creative and Style explains, “because it’s an archive that makes you dream, it includes so many iconic moments and pieces.” Reflective of Vivienne Westwood’s DNA, the resulting 23 piece capsule collection features styles specially selected from the Westwood archive. Central to the collection are a full lilac on stone grey tartan bondage look – synonymous with both the original Worlds End collection, boutique and punk heritage – alongside seminal asymmetric ‘Alcoholic’ tailoring in the form of shirting and outerwear, and Krall trousers, which illustrate Westwood’s love of historical Savile Row pattern cutting and its subsequent subversion. Separate casualwear unisex pieces also feature; the chain top references Westwood’s DIY ethos of making and adapting your own clothes, and the AR shorts emblazoned with Westwood’s Active Resistance to Propaganda graphic– highlight how Vivienne’s role as an activist informs the ethos of the brand today.
By returning to her early decades of fashion activism that saw garments as acts of rebellion at 430 Kings Road, plundering history for the Pirates collection and quietly shaping what would later evolve into the Climate Revolution project, we realise that her motivations then are her motivations now: to better understand the world and to focus that knowledge in powering positive change.
As the ARCHIVE 06 launch feels like an early Christmas present in itself, the LN-CC studio turned into a Westwood Winter Wonderland as Samuel Friberg and Lara McGrath conjured some Christmas Magick in front of Raphael Bliss’ lens. Here the ghosts of Westwood past, present and future unite to ignite our imaginations.
Photography: Raphael Bliss,@raphaelbliss
Styling: Charlotte Ghesquir, @Charlieghesquiere
Models: Samuel Friberg @samuelfriberg