I only found out on Wednesday about the Westwood film; our founder messaged me the details and I applied for press tickets not thinking I would get them. To my surprise we were lucky enough to get last minute tickets. We were greeted with a large glass of complementary red wine (my fave). The preview was held at Everyman Cinema in Kings Cross. The bar area has a subdued atmosphere with comfy chairs and stools. No sooner had we sat down, two bartenders were round with a round of wine and aperol gin & tonic; they were also handing out hotdogs and pizza. One particular bartender was so sweet, we told her we were coeliacs and she went and got us nachos with guacamole.
We were seated in screen 2 at the back, at the end of the row (thank goodness because are my favourite seats). Filmmaker and Director of ‘Westwood,’ Lorna Tucker, introduced the film to the audience. The film begins with a segment of conversation with Lorna where she says she wants to give up and close the business. Even OBE’s have days where they have no confidence and want a break from reality. This is the first film made that encompasses the story of one of life’s true icons.
This film is about her uphill struggle to success including her artistry, activism and cultural significance. Lorna has dug deep into the archives to pull out footage from over the years as well as current, observational, behind the scenes footage. Dame Vivienne Westwood grew up in the North of England and has been making clothes from a young age; she made the journey to London during the Swinging Sixties at the tender age of 17. She decided to study art and go into training as a teacher but, her life dramatically changed when she met Sex Pistols Manager Malcom Mclaren and together they set up their Kinds Road shop which in turn launched punk. During the film she talks honestly about her past relationships with Derek Westwood (whose name she kept and father of Ben Westwood, erotica photographer and owner of Agent Provocateur) and Malcom who she had a tumultuous relationship with and child, Joseph Corré. Even after splitting, he continued to medal in her business affairs costing her important clients.
Although Westwood was showing at Fashion Weeks, she wasn’t really accepted in the industry; she used to get made fun of and get laughed at a lot for her adventurous designs. So much so, it came as a great shock to everyone when she managed to win British Designer of the Year award two years in a row; they didn’t really want to give her the award and Vivienne simply said in her speech “One is appreciated.” Since then she won the prestigious award again in 2006.
At one point she moved shop temporarily to Conduit St, Mayfair, and ended up staying there as her sales went through the roof; this is now her flagship store. She also has a Couture Boutique showcasing her best known pieces on Davies St, Mayfair. Vivienne has her headquarters in South London not far from Chelsea.
I liked how the film kept going between old archived videos, behind the scenes footage of Vivienne’s day to day life and mini interviews with her, Andreas, staff and various models and friends. They also went to talk to someone at the V&A where some of her most popular garments were exhibited.
The tale of how Westwood and Andreas met is told during the film and the way Lorna put the footage together, really expressed how their relationship blossomed. It was noted by Vivienne herself that over the years Andreas has ended up taking on most of the work. As Vivienne Westwood has been and always will be an independent brand/business, they have always had to work ten times harder. This has resulted in her fighting battles to keep main control over the brand which many designer companies end up giving in up. But, for Vivienne, it really isn’t about the money or the quantity; she wants to make good quality clothes that express her. As it stands, at the moment she has 120 stores, 400 staff and hasn’t too long ago opened a store in Manhattan, NYC.
I found it fascinating seeing all the preparation that takes place before a fashion show. We get to see how much of a perfectionist she is and how much hard work and time it takes to get what we see on the catwalks. The day after shows, they have presentations with people from all around the world where they present the collection and do a marketing pitch. I’ve noticed her collections are very theatrical, bold and bright – almost an extension of herself.
As you may know, Vivienne is known as an avid campaigner and protester. During Lorna’s time filming her, they went on a trip to The North Pole to see the impact of climate change there. She is known for wanting to save the environment and uses her ‘celebrity’ status to make people aware of what we’re doing to the earth; for this reason she incorporates sustainable and ethical changes to her collections. One of the lines that stood out for me was when Vivienne said “we don’t have any democracy in England,” which is true despite that fact we are meant to be a democracy.
“Provocative, beautiful and respectful”– Christine Hendricks
“Punk rocker, the only punk rocker!” – Ben Westwood
After the film there was a Q&A with Lorna where the audience had a chance to ask her questions. I really enjoyed this section as we got to hear how she came about making this film and meeting Dame Vivienne Westwood. Lorna is very down to earth and is our modern day feminist although she certainty doesn’t hate men haha. She is very youthful despite having had a couple of kids while filming for this film. I like how she said we shouldn’t be ashamed of ageing, or not having the perfect body or having to be on benefits – that really resonated with me.
I didn’t think I could fall in love with Vivienne even more than I already had but I have. There were so many moments where tears filled my eyes; I’m so proud of her and what she’s achieved and I see bits of her in myself. LONG LIVE QUEEN OF PUNK, DAME VIVIENNE WESTWOOD.
In cinemas from the 23rd March.
By Destiny Crawford-Corri
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