We’re big fans of the fabulous Little People, Big Dreams series. Created to showcase inspirational females of the world, it’s heartening to find history lessons no longer fixated on dead white men. Here, at number 29 in this delightfully burgeoning collection, is Vivienne Westwood by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, a chance to learn about the life and cultural impact of the legendary left field designer, and how she went from suburban teacher to the ‘…most unique and outspoken fashion designer ever.’
Born in the north of England during the grey days of World War Two, Vivienne’s formative years were the era of ‘make do and mend,’ an ethos that would come to define her future fashion career. In her late teens she moved to the outskirts of London, taking up teaching to supplement her meagre artist’s income.
‘One day she met a rebellious young man called Malcolm McLaren.’
And the rest, of course, is the stuff of legend. Opening a shop together on the King’s Road, Westwood and McLaren were instrumental in the birth of British punk. Vivienne’s ripped and safety-pinned garments, dog collars and sloganed t-shirts were designed to provoke a reaction. In fact, this was only the beginning of her anti-fashion revolution, and this vividly illustrated read chronicles her career through its various incarnations, providing inspiration a-plenty for sparky young non-conformists.
Vivienne refashioned the past to create the future, her signature looks often comprised of tartan, tweed, crinoline and corsets. Shrugging off comments that her designs were outlandish and unwearable, she blazed a trail through decades of fashion and more recently, climate change activism. To this day, she passionately declares that fashion can make a difference to the world and designs clothes to make people feel ‘grand and strong.’
This is a quirky addition to a brilliant series that now includes male icons; David Bowie, Alan Turing, and Rudolf Nureyev, to name but a few. Look out for David Attenborough in early 2020.
Vivienne Westwood by Isabel Sánchez Vegara is published by Francis Lincoln, 32 pages.