Saturday 9 November 2013

Punk is back.....We owe it all to Vivienne Westwood.

Dame Vivienne Westwood (1941-) has become known as one of the most influential British Fashion designer of all time. This reputation has stemmed from her subversive collection in the early 1970's, garments reflecting a generations reaction towards the current social equipoise. A cursory glance through her archive roots back to the 70's, her most formative association is with sub-cultural fashion of teenage rebellion, in which Vivienne gave birth to punk. This is a glance back to the birth of offensive t-shirts, tartan trousers and for the first time ever..... clothes acting as a voice. 

A young Vivienne Westwood in the 1970's:

Vivienne began designing clothes in 1971 with the opening of her first shop, Let it Rock, at 420 King's Road, London. A boutique selling offensive ripped T-shirts, bondage gear and other attire that became synonymous with the punk explosion. Designs combining unconformity however still carrying a sense of British tradition. This tradition was used as a parody of establishment styles,  for example her use of tweed and tartan knowingly a prestigious British print. Along with historical garments such as the corset and crinoline.

Malcom McLaren, Westwood's boyfriend was just as responsible as Vivienne for this punk explosion during the early 70's. McLarens New York background, ultimately influenced his radical aesthetic of punk, rooted by social-economic disparities during that period. As Westwood's relationship with Malcolm developed so did the courageousness of her collections,"I latched onto Malcolm as somebody who opened doors for me," Westwood said. "I mean, he seemed to know everything I needed at the time." He would lecture her on the political power of art and encourage her to translate this idea into her clothes. In 1974 Let It Rock was re-branded to SEX, which became synonymous with the most culturally significant street style of the second half of the 20th century. Ideas submitted through this new punk ideology were changing the youths attitude to dominance and authority, London now had a new way of rebelling, using clothes as self-expression.

This new defining youth culture of anti-establishment lead by Vivienne became a commercial success. Westwood boyfriends career in managing the Sex Pistols coincided with the clothing, the band being advocates of Vivienne's clothing helped promote the rise of punk fashion. The prosperous symbiotic relationship between music and fashion effectively set the tone of popular culture. 1970's punk rockers such as Marco Pirroni, of the group Adam and the Ants, recalled "The country was a morass of beige and cream Bri-Nylon and their shop was an oasis. It took great liberalism and bravery to wear rubber in the street. If you shopped there, you didn't go anywhere else." This emphasises the importance of Westwood's clothing acting as a catalyst for expressing individual freedom. 

The sex pistols:

Vivienne Westwood's 1977 Collection:

The new crude and explicit clothing were common among Londoners, bondage trousers and offensive t-shirts were worn by the masses. One particular T-shirt, "Two Naked Cowboys", got their friend, the artist Alan Jones arrested, a defining moment of an attempt of the dominant culture trying to force this sub-culture into assimilation. This particular event is proof of a Viviennes collection changing the 70's youths norms and values, a movement of polarisation in which luxury was the answer and foundation to this brand new political stance.

Westwoods clothing is essential in gaining an insight into the late 1970's society, the collection encompasses the cultural movement,  it encapsulated the British youths candid opinion on politics. This exciting explosion of punk is making a comeback in the form of tartan and offensive t-shirts, which is very refreshing. There is only so much 'geek' t-shirts from Topshop paired with leopard print leggings one can take! 

Vivienne Westwood ad campaigns post 1970's

Vivienne Westwood ad campaigns 2013:

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