Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist
Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is one of the best movies I have seen this season. The documentary took me on an emotional rollercoaster – I felt as though I was holding hands with Vivienne Westwood (British Fashion Designer of the Year 1990, 1992 and 2006), living her life with her. I laughed, I cried, and even felt righteous indignation in a scene when someone brought her the wrong fabric.
The movie opens on a disgruntled Westwood speaking with off-screen director Lorna Tucker (Amá). We quickly find through Westwood’s disinterest in her own story, that she is intent on telling the details her way. "Do we have to have every bit of it, it's so boring to say all of it. I'm totally bored doing this stuff, but you need it so I'll tell you."
She takes us from the beginning, the Sex Pistols days, right through to some of her most recent work. Along the way, we are introduced to her then boyfriend Malcolm McLaren (manager of the Sex Pistols) who, through sabotage, skyrockets Westwood’s career. We also meet her now husband and colleague Andreas Kronthaler, who works with her to produce items for the runway.
By letting the audience know from the very beginning that the documentary isn’t based around forced questioning, rather, Westwood explaining her story in her own time, the film feels deeply authentic. The events flow more or less in chronological order from decade to decade, supported with footage from Westwood’s shows and workrooms.
There are also interviews of some of her colleagues and her two sons, who provided an inside look into the Westwood’s life journey. We hear a lot from her oldest son, Ben, who tells us how the early years of his mother’s careers were harder than people realized. Westwood was seen as a powerhouse, but behind closed doors, she struggled with motherhood, a sense of identity, and juggling her passion with work, just like a regular person.
The message of perseverance is intertwined throughout the documentary, though it is never mentioned. Seeing Westwood’s bravery to go after her dreams even when told that her ideas were ridiculous, made me think, what would we be able to achieve as a race if we followed our dreams instead of the restrictions of society? Tucker managed to capture the rebellious nature of Westwood, her ambition, the near recklessness of her decisions, in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat.
However, I found the lack of activism in the movie disappointing. Westwood has evolved to be more than just a fashion designer. She is an advocate of many social injustices. She fights for the rights of the LGBT community, the environment, and gender norms. Some of her more recent activism is shown, but considering that Westwood’s latest collections revolve around her advocacy (she recently released a line of unisex clothing to highlight gender norms) it’s strange that Tucker didn’t include more of it. It feels as if Tucker missed out on giving the audience a full image of who Westwood is now.
Watching Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, I felt encouraged to go and chase my dreams, no matter how ridiculous they seem to everyone else. I've always dreamed to go to culinary school, and what’s stopping me? Tucker and Westwood showed me that the road to success is not glamorous nor is it easy, but the way Westwood now fights for the rights of those less acknowledged, and is uncompromising in her vision, proves the end product is rewarding enough for it to be worth it.