Book Review: 'VIVIENNE WESTWOOD', by Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly. 15/03/2015
The first ever personal memoir from punk/activist/fashion legend Vivienne Westwood proves to be a 464-page tour-de-force. Writing in collaboration with award-winning biographer, Ian Kelly, we get a lot more than just a scrapbook of memories, with the text structure jerking back and forth via snapshots of the author's life. Instead, we receive an exceptionally insightful look at the life of an icon. The book is incredibly well-written, with detailed additional narrative expanding upon the themes explored, and is packed to the brim with never-before-published photographs from Vivienne's life.
The book charts her humble beginnings, and early struggles as a single mother after her decision to end her brief first marriage. Her tumultuous partnership with Malcolm McLaren is then recounted, simultaneously providing a vivid portrayal of the inception of punk, the fusion of fashion and music, and the impact of the British punk scene in the late seventies. First-hand accounts from her sons, friends, and colleagues, illustrate how Vivienne worked her socks off to make her designs, her business, her clothes store at 'World's End', etc., a success. However, McLaren, for all his great ideas, seemed to be conspicuous by his absence when it came to compulsory hard labour. He was hardly ever there for their child (let alone Vivienne's first son), and was constantly putting her down and taking sole credit for her work. The 'Sex Pistols' arrived, and departed. Not too long after, McLaren followed suit, leaving for America, chasing his latest affectation, another woman clung to his arms. However, this proved a catalyst for Vivienne to come into her own on a truly global scale. The book follows her rise and rise, right up to her current status as fashion mogul extraordinaire, world-renowned activist, and 73-year-old grandmother.
An aesthetically striking book. Though somewhat over-long (it does appear to drag on in parts), it is a discerning look into the life of a pioneer. An icon who re-invented herself as she moved with the times. But who remained an artist throughout, true to her calling. Frank, comprehensive, and inspiring.