Is Vivienne Westwood the world’s last true punk?
Lorna Tucker’s documentary – Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist on DStv Now – explores the life and career of the woman who has left an undeniable mark on pop culture and fashion. But, if you’re looking for a deep-dive into her involvement with The Sex Pistols, you’re going to be disappointed.
Westwood famously dressed The Sex Pistols, which is often seen as a defining moment in her career. The film touches on the beginning of Westwood’s career, and how she was one of the main architects of punk. Then we hear from the fashion legend herself about how the punk movement started, and her involvement in this counter-culture.
“It’s just so boring,” Westwood says while talking about the infamous punk band.
The statement sums up Westwood’s anarchic character. In a career that’s spanned almost five decades, why would she delve into a small moment in history when there’s just so much else to talk about?
Teasing us with glimpses of genius at work
This documentary gives us tantalising glimpses in Westwood’s world and history, teasing at details, but not always delivering on the juicy titbits at which it hints. The beautifully shot film shows us some of her every day, her apartment, her cycle to the studio, Westwood working. There’s a lot that’s left unexplored, like her relationship with her company’s chief executive, Carlo D’Amario.
What this film does do quite artfully though is highlight just how much of a force Westwood is. We see how she never stops evolving as a designer, and just how great her impact on the world of fashion and pop culture is. Her determination is something that can’t be understated – this is something illustrated in a clip from the somewhat dreadful 80s TV appearance, where the audience laughs at her designs; and again with behind-the-scenes footage of Westwood at work. We don’t get much from her about her personal life, but, what we do get is a rather poignant and touching bit from her current husband, Andreas Kronthaler.
Interesting facts about Dame Westwood
- She helped create the punk movement. Westwood not only dressed the Sex Pistols, but the band members were all her customers. Johnny Rotten and crew all frequented Westwood’s and her partner of the time, Malcolm McLaren’s shop.
- Westwood and McLaren’s London shop was called Sex. Their King’s Road shop was once called Sex – they’d change the name to match the current clothes that they were selling.
- She was a school teacher. Yes, really. Before she was the Priestess of Punk, Westwood taught primary school. She stopped teaching after meeting McLaren.
- Westwood collected her OBE without wearing knickers. Yup, that’s right. She received the honourable Order of the British Empire, and met the Queen, sans panties.
- She’s vegetarian. Westwood is a stout environmentalist and activist, famously shaving her head to promote climate change. Her belief in living sustainably not only extends to her fashion line, but to her personal life. She gave up eating meat, due to the amount of water used by the beef industry.
- The Romantic movement of the 1980s? Westwood was responsible for that too. Not content to be seen as just a token rebel, Westwood’s first show in Paris, called Pirates, ushered in the New Romantic Movement.
The undisputed great Dame of fashion mastered the dressing of the female form – her clothes often tease at details, but never ever quite gives up the goods. In this way, the documentary is like Westwood herself. Teasing out scandalous details (like that time she received her OBE without wearing any knickers), but never delves into anything deeply enough to give us a real sense of the person behind the legend, the motivation behind her continuous determination to rebel. It doesn’t tell as much as we’d like it to tell, but the glimpses that we’re given are beautifully pieced together and enjoyable to watch.