VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ‘34 YEARS IN FASHION’
Victoria & Albert Museum
Mental athlete and visionary aesthete Vivienne Westwood, launched her retrospective on the 4th April 2004. With a past that involves getting arrested on the boat on the Queen’s Jubilee and pissing over the side of it (that’s what bondage trousers enabled you to do), being the partner of Malcolm McLaren to being the Queen of the Wild Frontier - from self-taught street designer to high couture - the 64 year old ‘infant terrible’ has amassed a collection of incredible merit. I use the word ‘merit’ in reference of her own standards and not those of the public. It would be a fair assessment that Westwood’s ideas have never been easily digested by the press - the establishment - she has often been cited as a designer who failed to design wearable clothes but she has, by way of her own history, transformed our perceptions of what is ‘wearable’.
Ideas of taste, there being none in an ideal world, finds itself challenged in the first room of the exhibition. Punk. The Seditionary originals hang seriptiously in glass cases, presented in much the same indifferent way as in 'Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die' and 'Sex', the shops that Westwood and McLaren set up in the mid-seventies. The pieces are presented with readable text, all stating the surface facts, glossing over the ways in which McLaren sought the means to set up ‘Paradise Garage’ a fifties memorabilia shop - he ‘borrowed’ audio equipment from art college and sold it for just enough to open the shops that would confuse and excite all at once. There is the original 'Sex' hanging piece, an extract from Dicken’s 'Oliver Twist', giving rise to the Fagin character that McLaren was assuming; the Sex Pistols, his band of savages that would run wild through a foul-smelling London. Video footage of shop assistant Jordan squeezing into rubber bondage wear is mesmeric - not for explicit reasons - the more flesh she exposes and the more it is concealed, the more freedom she experiences. An idea that was applied to the ideas of freedom and restriction, to exerience situations both physically and politically. To wear rubber was to understand and be part of your present. To wear rubber meant a step towards breaking the taboos of your in-built Britishness. Sex sells, sex shocks, sex was the very thing that would bring both brief-case taliored men and suburbanites into it’s inner-sanctum, to indulge in it’s humane danger. In further pursuit of utopia, Westwood’s sequential collections, 'Nostalgia of Mud', the dawn of 'Bow Wow Wow' and New Romanticism, informed a series of ideas that she would explore in her future collections, this time embracing the notions of what appeared to be infinitely British with an infusion of her own subversive technique, rendering it either extremely un-British or new.
The second room sees a passion for eighteenth century painting - Rococco, Boucher and Fragonard - starts Westwood’s exploration of the cultural exchange between France and England. The garments are designed to make you look like you have stepped out of a portrait, that you are the spit of Madame de Pompidour in both style and attitude. Westwood’s manipulation of materials, drapery and colourways reflect this no more significantly. Her fascination with culture is to be found in every collection. From the earliest experiments with nihilist punk clothing, Jamie Reid’s safety pin image, The Swastika, Situationist slogans stolen from the porn novels of Alexander Trocchi, Westwood has tried to question many ideals of not just British society but individuality, in the pursuit of a new undiscovered one. Her subversive methodologies are not restricted to new ways of pattern cutting; her enthusiasm for
|Comments On This Review|
|On 19/05/2005 12:38 chicthug said:|
oh she is just a bit wonderful isn't she.
Check out Alexander Mcqueen's "Urban Jungle" collection if you like this.
|Post A Comment On This Review|
|Only registered members of the website can post comments on a review. Registration is quick & simple (and free). Use the buttons below to register, or login if you are a returning member|