Vivienne Westwood: climate change matters more than clothes

Vivienne Westwood won the latest honor in her brilliant career in fashion this weekend in Italy, though when one talks to this British Dame it’s abundantly clear she is much more interested in the climate than in clothes.


Vivienne Westwood with Pascal Vicedomini - Photo: Ischia Global Fest

 “I’m bored with fashion and much more concerned about the health of the planet. We barely have a generation to change things before it is too late,” insisted Westwood.

Westwood was the latest recipient of the Excellence Award at the Ischia Film & Music Global Fest early Sunday morning. She follows fellow couturiers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Carolina Herrera in the past two years as Ischia Global Fest winners.
 
Westwood has essentially handed over design of her house’s fashion collections to her husband and long-time designer collaborator Andreas Kronthaler. In September, Kronthaler will present the spring-summer 2019 collection in Paris during the French runway season, while in early December, her house will launch a joint collection with Burberry, in partnership with that house’s new creative director Riccardo Tisci.
 
“It will be a unique collection of classic Westwood ideas; beautifully cut blazers by Andreas or some of my archive punk kilts with straps. Though everything done in Burberry plaid. It’s actually very clever,” she smiles over a vegan lunch of island vegetables.
 
Even at 77 years old, the designer remains strikingly busy. She is intensely committed to the fight against global warming; and keeps a highly active blog called Climate Revolution.
 
Westwood remains a true fashion icon. She got a huge round of applause when she accepted her Sea Horse award in the Hotel Regina di Isabella. A storied Italian jet-set hotel – where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor lived out their passionate romance during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963.
 
“We have an enormous global problem: our politicians are not listening to our scientists. We have barely 20 years to stop things, otherwise we shall reach a tipping point and we can draw a line across the earth and everywhere below Paris will be uninhabitable. By the end of this century we will only be one billion people,” she predicted, drawing applause from the audience of some 500.
 
This year’s Ischia Global Fest – founded and led by Italy’s number one cineaste and film critic Pascal Vicedomini - also awarded the famed music producer Quincy Jones with a Legend Award and presented an Ischia Actor of the Year prize to Marcello Fonte, winner of the Best Actor award in Cannes this spring for his role in the contemporary Roman neo-realist film Dogman.
 
A two-time winner of the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year Award, Westwood received her award after a movie screening on a cliff face in a small bay on the verdant island. Suitable, given her commitment to supporting the Rain Forest via the Cool Earth movement.
 
“We don’t try to buy the forest, but work with indigenous peoples to get them completely legal documents to own their piece of forest where they have lived for hundreds of years. They care passionately about their land and we give them the same amount of money to save the forest that loggers would give them to cut it down. The plan is to save the whole raid forest for one hundred million pounds, very little really. And the Queen has joined in and its now working. Every pound saves a tree,” explained this queen of punk, dressed in an écru chiffon sari dress.
 
“We have no choice between a green economy and mass extinction,” insisted Westwood, who was made a Dame in 2003 by Queen Elizabeth II, 25 years after the designer defaced the monarch’s face with safety pins on T-shirts.
 
A mother of two sons – photographer Ben Westwood and Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corré (from her second marriage to Malcolm McLaren) – Westwood became a grandmother two years ago, to Bamboo Westwood. Way back in 1971, Westwood exploded into the public imagination with her first store with McLaren – Let it Rock at the 430 Kings Road. By 1975, the year of punk, their renamed store Sex became the Mecca of the anti-establishment movement. Her punk rock tartan kilts; retro Teddy Boy jackets; ripped leopard print tops or slashed-up bondage gear with swastika prints and Situationist slogans became the uniform of the whole era.
 
But in 1992, this empress of subversive chic took her runway collection to Paris – the first British designer to do so since Mary Quant – and channeled her aesthetics into more theatrical ideas in her acclaimed Anglomania and Red Label lines, incorporating 17th and 18th century fabrics and Savile Row tailoring techniques. She developed substantial businesses in the UK, USA and, above all, Korea and Japan where she still has scores of stores. Westwood also boasts a successful series of scents and even her own clan tartan, MacAndreas.  
 
But these days he overriding obsession is her fight against global warming, which one can follow on her blog and diary. Its name is typically insurrectionary: Climate Revolution.
 

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