Vivienne Westwood – A Triumph of Style and Substance
Finally! August, my favourite magazine month. Why? Well, it’s in August that the September issues are released- the thickest, glossiest, most important installment for the entire fashion industry, packed full of the new season advertisements and collections. Whilst my friends moan about my magazines of choice “just being full of adverts”, I relish in oohing and ahhing at the new campaigns; the glamorous garments and gorgeous girls modeling them.
Yet, this time, I sensed something quite different. Sitting with my cup of tea whilst delving into the style bible (Vogue, obviously), I felt a bit…. bored. As I flicked through invariable adverts, they all resembled one thing; the same idealised representation of ‘perfection’. Flawless model no.1 – tall, young, slim and blonde; Flawless model no.2- tall, young, slim and brunette. Not exactly riveting.
This uniform advertising seems crazy, considering, in the current recession, brands are pulling out all the stops for their adverts to get noticed. Double page spreads, heavy weight paper, that free perfume sample – just some of the tactics employed. However, maybe they need look at the actual adverts themselves. No longer does that photo-shopped, exsquisite model, in a perfect location, with exceptional clothes, make me sit up and take notice - because I’ll flip over the page and see it again, and again, and again…………..
Yet, one advert caught my eye: one stood out. Vivienne Westwood’s. You can always count on the ingenious designer to be unconventional. For AW2011, the brand’s advert features the 70 year-old ‘godmother of punk’ modeling in a barren, infertile location complete with disheveled, ramshackle houses in the background. The shot is truly gripping, packing real substance. It shows age, poverty, struggle… and yet true beauty, wisdom and strength. A far cry from the deceivingly perfect images we are bombarded with elsewhere.
|AW 2011/12 accessories advert - as seen in Vogue|
You see fashion is a peculiar industry – one that sells on innovation, but has a lemming complex. Yet, since bursting onto the scene in 1971 with her now infamous shop on 430 Kings Road, Westwood has constantly been at the forefront of change. Whilst the rest of London was awash with little boutiques selling ethnic clothing, Westwood’s store brought punk to the forefront, influencing mainstream fashion and overhauling the ‘rules of fashion’. She blurred the boundaries between couture and street style, giving birth to the ‘trickle up theory’ – where street fashion influences designer. It is arguably down to this flame-haired female that we have such a conglomerate of fashion influences today.
Because throughout her career, Westwood has championed individuality in style. She is the embodiment of diversity. Her clothes are for everyone and anyone; girls of colour (black model, Ajuma Nasenyana, appeared in the 2008 campaign), women of age (Helena Bohem Carter regularly promotes the brand on the red carpet) and females with curves (Christina Hendricks is the face of the new jewellery line). It is this constant, refreshing uniqueness that drives the brand’s public appeal. Take the advert in 2007, which featured Vivienne Westwood and Pamela Anderson modeling the new season garments. Whilst most of us wouldn’t dream of pairing together these yin/yang characters, the deviant designer and Baywatch babe were a mismatch made in marketing heaven.
|Ajuma Nasenyana - S/S 2008 Collection|
|Christina Hendricks - 2011 "Get a Life" Jewellery Collection|
|Pamela Anderson - S/S 2009 Collection|
|The infamous "penis shoe"|
That’s the alluring thing about this immensely iconic designer - she can’t be second guessed. Her unconventional and unpredictable ways have kept her in the fashion spotlight for over 40 years – no mean feat. From exhibiting a ‘penis shoe’ in Selfridges window, to going knickerless whilst collecting an OBE at Buckingham Palace, to designing heels so daring they caused Naomi Campbell to collapse to the floor whilst on the runway, this extraordinary woman has no problem in gaining our attention!
So, fashion brands, next time you decide to spend millions creating a ‘perfect’ advert, take some “soul” from Westwood’s wacky shoes. There’s a reason why this marvelous (albeit barmy) woman has been so successful for so long – she’s different. In the words of Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington, as she triumphs over Anna Wintour in 'The September Issue', “Not everything in this world can be perfect”. Westwood is one of the few designers not trying to pretend it is- and that’s why we love her!
Have a look at Vivienne Westwood’s latest collection on Fashion Rocks by following this link.