Last night I heard the sad news that iconic British fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, had passed away at 81 years old.
I have been thinking a lot about fashion and style recently.
What is fashion? Is it self-expression? Is it semi mindfully following the latest trends that were thought out months before being fed to the eager public? Is it a bit of both?
There is nothing wrong with following trends. Sometimes a style I love will be “in” and available everywhere—great! Sometimes a style I don’t resonate with is all over the place. Wearing something I don’t like, that doesn’t suit me, just to follow the masses? No, thanks.
Pleated miniskirts? I adore them.
Mom jeans? Please keep those away from me.
Vivienne Westwood was a primary school teacher before she took her first steps into the world of fashion, and her big debut came after she met and fell in love with Malcolm McLaren who would become the manager of the punk band the Sex Pistols.
They started selling clothes they had designed together in their store called SEX, which soon became a hangout for early members of what would become the legendary London punk scene.
“Vivienne and Malcolm use clothes to shock, irritate and provoke a reaction but also to inspire change. Mohair jumpers, knitted on big needles, so loosely that you can see all the way through them, T-shirts slashed and written on by hand, seams and labels on the outside, showing the construction of the piece; these attitudes are reflected in the music we make. It’s OK to not be perfect, to show the workings of your life and your mind in your songs and your clothes.” ~ Viv Albertine.
Vivienne Westwood, by then in her late 20s, upset with corrupt governments and the horrors of war, felt that punk was as much a statement as a fashion. A call to arms, a rebellion against conformity. Just say no.
She went on to become one of the most iconic fashion designers and personalities in the world.
Fashion does not have to be all about following the latest trends. Your style is your expression, no one else’s.
Here are some of Vivienne’s quotes about fashion and style. I believe we can all find some inspiration within them:
1. “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”
This speaks for itself. Don’t buy something unless you really like it, really need it, or can really do something with it.
2. “I didn’t consider myself a fashion designer at all at the time of punk. I was just using fashion as a way to express my resistance and to be rebellious.”
And we can all do this. Express ourselves not by copying others, but by choosing our own style. A necklace can be made with shells found on the beach, or of pearls found in the deepest ocean. Earrings can be made of safety pins, or diamonds. Your grandmother’s old broach doesn’t have to go with a shawl; you can use it to clasp together an oversized T-shirt into a cropped style. How awesome would that be?
3. “I have certain signatures, certain cutting edge principles. It could be a raw-edged seam; it could be leaving the lining of sheepskin exposed so it’s not perfectly finished. I invent new ways to do it, but the end goal is always the same.”
Imperfection is so much more fun than perfection. It is real, raw, and edgy. I have a Buddha painting in my living room, and you can see where my children, when they were younger, have scribbled underneath.
Why did I continue it after that? Because they left their mark there; the memories of childhood scribbles and innocence and love and joy. My Buddha has personality. Our styles can have personality too.
4. “Even though it was the 70s, we found old stocks of clothes that had never been worn from the 50s and took them apart. I started to teach myself how to make clothes from that kind of formula.”
Secondhand clothes and upcycling—a big yes to this. Mixing old and new is fun and gives us the chance to create something unique. Tie-dye an old dress to give it a new lease of life, bleach dye, and cut off the sleeves of a dank top to make a cool summer T-shirt.
5. “To me, reading a fashion magazine is the last thing I need to do. I’ve got books I need to read.”
Don’t follow. Create.
6. “The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity.'”
Vivienne Westwood. Gone but never forgotten.