The Women’s March on Versailles in 1789 began inthe marketplaces of Paris, as 7,000 individuals demanded their needs to city officials. Such extreme efforts may have seemed far removed from society today until the 2017 Women’s March for equal rights exploded across the USA. While these demonstrations chant for individual’s rights, beneath the surface is the demand for a balance of power in every office of leadership. For decades, one artist has been unselfconsciously challenging mankind’s destructive behaviour, making a global impact with her singular force. Dame Vivienne Westwood is our woman,an artist, a warrior and an inspirationin her work and her daily activism.
After attending Franny armstrong’s 2009 documentary The Age of Stupid, Westwood began writing a manifesto, polishing her thoughts on art in relation to the human predicament and climate change. It was a turning point in the public’s perception of this lightening bolt of a designer who began humbly as a jewellery maker on london’s Portobello road. Securing her name as one of the world’s most iconic designers and the creator of Punk Fashion, suddenly her astute intelligence resonated with the masses: “We have the choice to become more cultivated and therefore more human, or by muddling along as usual we shall remain the destructive and self-destroying animal, the victim of our own cleverness”.
In 2008, Westwood had taken to the stage and rallied with thousands at a Campaign for Nuclear disarmament demonstration. She dropped her support of the labour Party over civil liberties and human rights issues and more recently threw her weight behind the green Party of England and Wales. Westwood’s voice arrived at a time when a new generation was waking up to the same conclusion; be the change you want to see around you.
Westwood the woman, and her prodigious amplitude of designs, from ready-to-wear to couture, have dazzled magazine covers for five decades. As far back as 1989, wearing a suit that had been commissioned for then Prime Minister Margaret thatcher, Westwood appeared on a cover wearing the un-delivered suit. The caption read: “this woman was once a punk” and the image trail-blazed into the international political spotlight and was lauded as one of the greatest UK magazine covers ever.
Unlike any artist throughout history, Westwood’s insuppressible passion for creation, coupled with a spiritual mindfulness, has brought her to the forefront of political action, inspiring generations with her voice as an artist and her literal voice of reason. Not only a fashion designer and activist, Westwood is a female impresario, a mother and a wife, and she’s juggled her many roles seamlessly. More recently she entered the academic world earning an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University and was made doctor of letters for contributions to the industry. On designing the academic dresses for King’s College london her
inspiration was simple: “through my reworking of the traditional robe I tried to link the past, the present and the future. We are what we know”.