Glass reviews the Vivienne Westwood: Catwalk book

“WESTWOOD’s clothes force you to think,” says Alexander Fury in the introduction to the Vivienne Westwood Catwalk book. And oh how I thought when flicking through its glorious pages. It’s a magical feeling to be able to visually access the creative mind of Vivienne Westwood, especially in such an organised and thorough format as presented in the Vivienne Westwood Catwalk book, so for all Westwood and fashion history lovers alike, this is your bible to understanding one of the most revolutionary designers of our time.

Vivienne Westwood Catwalk book.

The book is the first of its kind, filling in the gaps that google leaves upon researching Westwood’s career. It is written by Alexander Fury, a fashion historian, author and critic. Fury is also the Fashion Director at AnOther Magazine and menswear critic of the Financial Times.

Not forgetting that he happens to be one of the most glamorous fashion collectors on Instagram, with frequent try ons and clothing care guides shared on his stories.

This passion for the story behind clothing spills from each word that he writes in The Vivienne Westwood Catwalk. Resulting in a rich and deeply considered tapestry of the 40 years since Vivienne Westwood had her first catwalk show, Pirates, in 1981.

Vivienne Westwood, AW95 Collection. Paris, France.

Opening with a detailed introduction spanning the years of Vivienne Westwood’s career, an autobiography from the dame herself, followed by a chronological evaluation of each of her collections, delicately addressing the highs and the lows of the backstory to each, and including unseen before images of the designer’s miraculous creations, the Vivienne Westwood Catwalk book is a potent picture of the rebellious undercurrent that directly influenced the modern landscape of fashion that we all enjoy today.

It paints a unique, and often unacknowledged, scene of the collaboration that Westwood so encouraged throughout her work process, an unconventional method at the time.

Firstly, the music impresario and her partner at the time, Malcolm McLaren, who helped rally against the establishment, frequently reinventing a new aesthetic in retaliation to the times at their shop that they shared on 430 King’s Road; then from the late ‘80s onwards, Canadian artist Gary Ness, who opened Westwood to traditions of art; and finally Andreas Kronthaler, who has been acknowledged as a creative collaborator to Westwood since 1991.

It was with Ness and then later on, Kronthaler, that Vivienne Westwood explored the “Baroque and Rococo, the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome, the styles of the French Ancien Regime and the Renaissance, and the imperfection of French haute couture” – brand signatures that have gone on to inspire the likes of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

Vivienne Westwood AW93-94 Collection.

Westwood’s use of the past to navigate the future of fashion goes down to the very seam, and in this book her unique cutting and draping methods are unpicked. From the pourpoint cut, which Westwood still uses today, to the pom-pom pads that helped internally support the bustle profile of her 1988 Centaur and Centaurella skirts (inspired by Empire-line dresses of the Regency period – 1800-20), even to her incessant need to waste no fabric, thereby cutting only rectangles of fabric that when crafted into an item of clothing adapted differently depending on the person who wore it, Westwood’s legacy is celebrated with superior reign.

Anecdotes that I particularly enjoyed from the book were of Westwood’s repurposing of tin cans into buttons – an innovative upcycling method ahead of its time, her encouragement of styling bras over the top of clothing (she was the first person to do so), and her use of the innards of jackets to decorate the exterior during the Witches show of 1983 – demonstrably years ahead of the current trend of deconstructing.

Vivienne Westwood

“Each collection has a narrative justification, a story that inspires, suggesting character, which then determine outfits,” Fury notes in the book. This becomes explicitly evident, the looks come alive as each model captured dances through the pages, imbuing an energy into every step and swish and signifying theatrical importance.

by Lily Rimmer

The Vivienne Westwood Catwalk book costs £55 and is available to purchase here