BY EDDY TAIT
Madman’s latest fashion documentary, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, is a gritty insight into the world of sassy punk diva, Dame Vivienne Westwood. Righteous and resolute, Westwood is passionate about human rights and world issues. What the film questions, however, is has her dedication to political, cultural and environmental activist movements impaired the harmony of her own fashion label? And further still, is her business going against everything she has dedicated her life to?
Fashion industry pioneer and punk influencer, Vivienne Westwood, is known for pushing boundaries and defying social expectations. The film illustrates the incredible craftsmanship and talent involved in designing and creating collections for her label over the past 40 years. Unquestionably so, her designs are iconic, timeless, tools for self expression and this is what makes them so popular.
The footage is raw and script unrehearsed, capturing the stress and pressure of the fashion industry. From fitting toile’s on models in the studio to backstage antics at the shows, the pace is high and patience often running thin. The tension imposed by Westwood’s audacious and steadfast nature is entertaining, but it is clear through the strength and authenticity of her relationships that Vivienne is loved and respected by many.
It was surprising to learn of her business and life partner, Andreas Kronthaler. They have been designing together for 25 years. It had not been obvious before now that the collections and running of the company is a fifty-fifty partnership, with her former student come husband. Their relationship is charming and endearing, as they make the most delightfully, trendy pair. Each so individual, yet complimentary. When it comes to designing, it is very clear, Vivienne is all about conveying a message and creating connection through her designs, where as Andreas just wants to make beautiful clothes.
Unfortunately, the film is shy on showcasing Vivienne’s activism. The documentary platform would have been a golden opportunity for the public to learn more about specific actions she is taking to change the impact the fashion industry is having on our planet. In doing so, there would be increased awareness around these issues to inspire action. Rather, the film focuses on the loss of control Vivienne has over her company, which has grown exponentially over time. It draws on the drama behind the scenes for entertainments sake, making fun of Vivienne’s naivety when it comes to elements of the business, such as not knowing what the marketing team do.
Vivienne is still defying the public’s expectations at age 77 and doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. This makes the film entertaining and inspiring. We could all take a leaf out of Vivienne’s book; if you aren’t happy with something, try to change it. No matter the cost.
Westwood is currently screening in Australian cinemas.