I promised a while ago that I would do a write-up of Vivienne Westwood’s latest memoir, written by herself and Ian Kelly, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do today! The book has been available for a fair amount of time now (…I received it at Christmas…), but that doesn’t take away from some of the powerful messages within it. I’m going to be sharing with you, five of the lessons I learned from the 400 or so pages…
#1 – You have to just go for it…
Apart from the ambition to prove something to myself, there was also, for me, a kind of duty. A duty that I owed to fashion or to myself. That something I could do, I somehow ought to do. Because if I don’t do it, nobody else would. Just like my politics really. Just like me as a little girl, ‘It was me’. I don’t know, so that’s why I did it, and although it was at times a chore, I don’t regret it. Just the opposite. I proved what I wanted to prove and I have found real satisfaction in it, as well as a voice. But if somebody had come along to me in 1979 and said, “Look, Vivienne, you’re really good but I’m as good as you are and I can do that job for you. You go off to university.”, I probably would have said, “Oh, all right, ok I will.
I’m a big believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’ and the whole ‘we’re on a journey’ way of looking at life, so this really resonated with me. I’ve always known in my mind what I’m here for, so knowing that she had a vision in her mind and didn’t let other people stop her, is really empowering. You can’t let people who are doing similar things get you down because there is only one version of you. You are the only person who can create something unique and unique, even if it’s similar or someone is capable of doing the same thing.
My goal in fashion combines numerous different factors, a couple of which weren’t yet in my mind a few years ago, but that’s okay; it’s all adding up to what will be my end goal. Nobody else can achieve that but me.
#2 – Comfortable is just an idea…
The convention that comfortable clothes should be loose-fitting is a convention of our time. I feel comfortable when I think I look great, and I couldn’t bear to put on shapeless, stamped-out mass-manufactured clothes. I design clothes in the hope of breaking convention. Comfort is to do also with completing a mental image of what you want to look like. What you are and who you are.
I’m also a big believer in being yourself and the concept of being comfortable meaning being comfortable within yourself before anything else. I actually wrote a piece on a similar topic, but this little segment really solidifies the idea. It also gives me motivation for my own fashion design career, because I too, want to design clothes that break convention and redefine it.
Comfort is whatever feels normal for you. It’s an idea that was created to keep us feeling safe… but in my opinion, you can only really feel safe and content when you are doing exactly what you need to be doing, and exactly what you believe in.
As you will read in that blog post of mine, for me, comfort is wearing what I want even if it’s not the norm. It’s wearing leather jackets instead of floral dresses and having memories to look back on where I’m wearing Dr Martens instead of sandals. Plus – I definitely don’t want to be wearing mass-manufactured clothes anymore, which brings me on to my next lesson learned…
#3 – Becoming more ethical and sustainable really does take time…
“Guilty”, Vivienne tends to say, sometimes even literally holding up her hands. “One answer is that you have to start from where you are. Another is that I reach people – people who read fashion magazines for instance – who would never have heard about some of this otherwise.”
Reading yet another ethical fashion icon talk about how they’re not even perfect themselves truly does make you feel like you can breathe. I’ve discussed this before, but you really do have to look at it all from the situation you are in. If you can help spread the message at the same time, then that’s just as important to take into account. You’re doing twice as much if you’re being conscious as well as spreading the same ideals. Yet another lesson that nicely ties in with a recent blog post of mine, where I spoke about why influencers need to use their influence.
#4 – …and educating yourself on the topics matter.
Johnny Rotten’s songs really were very clever, weren’t they? ‘No future. Your future dream is a shopping scheme.’ We need to stop educating people to be consumers and educate them so they are capable of thinking with their own minds.
I don’t care how many times I’ve reiterated this fact, or how many times I’ve stated I don’t care how many times I’ve reiterated this fact, but it really is important to educate yourself on topics if you want to fully understand them. Reading news articles is all well and good, but as soon as you dig a little deeper, you’ll start to realise how significant these matters really are. And Vivienne is right – Johnny Rotten’s lyrics are clever and they work just as well as they did within the heart of the punk era, as they do now.
Another mini lesson I suppose is that we really do owe everything to Vivienne when it comes to punk, whether that’s in terms of music or fashion.
#5 – Perhaps there’s a reason that designers are only wearing simple clothes on the catwalk…
I nearly missed the [Pirate] show, and Malcolm made me go on stage, saying ‘They want to see you as you are, they want to see that you’ve been working.‘
The fifth and final lesson is a bit of an odd one, and more of a realisation to be honest as I’ve always been curious as to why designers don’t seem to express themselves when it comes to taking their bow and applaud on the catwalk. Most designers tend to be wearing all black, or monochromatic outfits and it’s always seemed bizarre to me when the clothes they’re showcasing are so creative and individual.
This line makes a lot of sense to me now (even if that wasn’t its intent), and is something I’ll take into account the next time I’m watching the shows. After all, designing isn’t an easy job, so if they feel comfortable in what they work in, then that’s all that should matter, and that’s all that we should expect to see – it’s a form of realism.
There’s so much more to her book than all of that, though. It’s really opened my eyes up to how a career can drastically change and how creating long lasting relationships are so vital to achieving that. It’s also opened my eyes up to how much influence Vivienne has really made and how she too, travelled and experienced part of her journey in Italy.
I’m definitely going to learn more about topics mentioned in the book, specifically Climate Revolution and how I can make my mark in the world of sustainability. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy!
I’m now off to read some more of To Die For by Lucy Siegle, and check the post box to see if my copy of Threadbare has arrived; it’s a book all about the fashion industry and sex trafficking, in comic book form! What’s next on your reading list? Lots of Love… Tolly Dolly Posh xx