I met Vivienne Westwood for the primary [and last] time at The Elephant Household Animal Ball in London in 2019. The charity was began by Mark Shand, Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles’ late brother, to guard Asian elephants from extinction within the wild. I didn’t know she was coming for the sit-down dinner hosted at Clarence Home. Vivienne had virtually stopped designing by then and was spending numerous time as an Earth warrior, as she referred to as herself. She was crusing on Greenpeace ships and crusading for measures to be taken that will halt local weather change. That’s what we talked about that evening — about the way forward for our planet.
Staying true to herself
Two issues have all the time stood out for me. To begin with, as Girls’s Put on Each day editor John Fairchild had dubbed her, she was a designer’s designer. She hadn’t come out of a structured programme from a college. If you find yourself educated in a self-discipline, you be taught to suppose in a sure manner. However she had no guidelines; she did what she felt like.
She was a part of the unique punk motion together with her accomplice Malcolm McLaren, a musician, designer [and manager of the iconic punk band The Sex Pistols]. They’d began a store on King’s Street — which has taken on a number of names through the years, from SEX to Seditionaries: Garments for Heroes — the place they went utterly bonkers, pushing boundaries and questioning authority and the institution. Her designs, which have impressed many like Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano, resembled no different. In the identical manner that Rei Kawakubo does [though in a different manner] for Comme des Garçons, Vivienne went at style in essentially the most uninhibited manner and created her personal, very specific model.
When Westwood went viral
The final couple of years noticed a revival of Westwood, particularly with Gen Z referencing her orb brand (a hybrid of the rings of Saturn and the sovereign’s orb) within the type of the Mini Bas Aid pearl choker. It had her going viral on TikTok.
Secondly, what was wonderful about her was how she all the time stayed true to herself. As she moved by way of life, she believed passionately in what felt proper and what she did in that second in time. In contrast to many designers who do lovely issues, she questioned the institution even when she was not punk. Her clarion name was ‘Orthodoxy is the grave of intelligence’ [a quote from British philosopher Bertrand Russell]. She took dangers, and there was no higher place than the UK to do that.
The woman from Tintwistle
Vivienne didn’t have it simple. A single mom, born to working class mother and father [in 1941 near Manchester], the self-taught designer began by taking classics like T-shirts and slashing them, rolling up the sleeves, writing issues on them — as punks did. Then within the Eighties, she turned enamoured of excessive tradition and commenced doing essentially the most superbly draped night robes on the ramp.
Take a look at her trajectory: she was largely a sportswear and loungewear designer, however she took materials and she or he performed with them. She used a little bit cotton, she used plaid, she did knits. She’s the one which introduced the enormous platform sneakers with the 13-inch heels that Naomi Campbell stumbled over on the ramp carrying. [The Gillies heels that Westwood launched in 1993 in her ‘Anglomania’ collection, is a style that was originally made in Scotland over 500 years ago.] She put the bustle into the mini skirt, and took corsetry to a different degree.
In truth, when Minal Modi [wife of former IPL chairman Lalit Modi] inspired me to do corsets, she confirmed me Vivienne’s work to grasp them technically. When Vivienne introduced them again into style as outerwear, she performed with necklines, dug into the previous [taking inspiration from 18th-century French paintings], used gold lamé, Swarovski crystals, and removable, epaulette-topped sleeves. She is why corsets have turn into a signature silhouette and proceed to dominate our wardrobes.
She additionally did numerous draping. After all, the British don’t use as a lot floor gildings; they’re extra concerning the tucks. She did all the things together with her fingers. They’d be driving to Paris in a van for a present and she or he’d be sitting within the again stitching a jacket.
I used to be lucky to see her retrospective on the V&A museum in 2004 — which tracked her evolution over 30-plus years — and later in Bangkok. I took my studio to see it. I keep in mind these T-shirts that mentioned ‘God save the queen’ however had a security pin put by way of Queen Elizabeth’s face. Two years later, Vivienne was made a dame for her companies to style. And I discovered it humorous to see the girl who had gone head on with the institution sitting on this yellow satin draped costume with a giant crinoline and a ruff, giving an interview, trying just like the Queen Mom!
Questioning the established order
When she married her husband Andreas Kronthaler, [25 years her junior] a former Austrian scholar of hers, they’d go to black tie occasions the place she would costume him in a robe and herself as a person. So she questioned gender identification a very long time in the past.
She was not afraid to place herself on the market. She was ridiculed when she first began doing lots of her designs, however that was who she was.
At this time, the trade is buckling below performative style, created solely to catch the attention and go viral. Vivienne used numerous efficiency, too — there was all the time theatrics on her ramp — however she did it with perspective. She did it with fashions who match the invoice, with a rebellious spirit, with a playfulness and, all the time, a sure perception.
She was grounded, nothing went to her head. Her evolution got here in essentially the most pure, visceral method. She turned a worldwide star, however she didn’t get affected by the trimmings. She simply received up, went to work and did the subsequent actual factor.
Westwood handed away on December 29 on the age of 81.
Tarun Tahiliani is a couturier famend for his embroideries, drapes, and corsets.
As advised to Surya Praphulla Kumar