Only a few people can be accredited to the rise of punk culture through fashion, and Vivienne Westwood reigns supreme. Westwood’s way of provocative fashion was often overlooked and joked about in the industry despite her being awarded designer of the year two years in a row. However, one thing the fashion industry couldn’t do was ignore her. She used fashion as a mouthpiece of social rebellion aimed towards the uptight English society. While the fashion onlookers were confused, the controversy gained her acclaim and an Icon status. Vivienne’s first encounter that shaped the way she wanted to become a designer happened at a young age. She finally found out what happened after the idyllic religious figure baby Jesus grew up, spoiler alert it wasn’t anything good. Feeling deceived, she felt as if she had to become a Knight, like in the medieval ages, to be able to stop people from doing bad things to each other. She decided to do this through fashion, thus sparking her brand ‘Vivienne Westwood’ that is now globally renowned.
The documentary, WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST, gives insight into Vivienne Westwood’s personal life and the harshness that comes with the fashion industry. Vivienne has the distinguishing feature of being an instrumental influencer towards the rise of the punk culture that took place in England during the mid-1970s. One of her first pieces included a swastika printed dead-center on a shirt, and had lyrics from the 1970s punk band, the Sex Pistols, placed underneath it. This controversial move is her way of sparking social commentary with the very traditional England. Vivienne’s subversiveness through fashion and her ambition to be a “fashion anarchist” truly defines her brand. While the undertones of her being influential in the punk uprising are prevalent throughout the film, they are only really touched upon a few times. Instead the documentary further focuses on her relationships and the tumultuousness that comes with being a creator in the fashion world.
WESTWOOD itself is almost rebellious in the way it documents her life. Opening with Vivienne saying how she doesn’t want to recount certain parts of her life because they may seem too boring, sets the tone for how she feels like a lot of events in her life feel connected and repetitive. The documentary, like Vivienne, is also very straightforward and unashamed with the way it shows you clips of her fast paced career. The scenes jump from different parts of her life not trying to glamorize anything, but also demanding you to take notice that she is globally successful for a reason. Becoming an environmental activist later on in her career further intensifies the respect people have for her, and contributes to her core goal of creating a better world for people through fashion. While both the documentary and Vivienne may come off as cold, the audience is able to look deeper into the film seeing the subtle moments of Vivienne’s undeniable impact on the world as we know it today.
WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST is now in limited release in Canada with a VOD release later in Summer 2018.