Westwood: Punk. Icon. Activist. (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Fans of Vivienne Westwood will love getting a documentary on the iconic fashion designer.
Lorna Tucker’s film accurately places Westwood at the core of a great number of cultural movements and shifts, not just in fashion but in global culture.
One of a handful of intriguing fashion documentaries in 2018, fans of films regarding André Talley, Alexander McQueen, and Antonio Lopez, will be excited to see this added to the slate.
For all we see and hear, Westwood is a person of stark contrasts depending on the decade or in different periods in her life. The film’s failure to explore these is an interesting oversight.
The movie feels padded and slow at just 79 minutes.
A quick read-through of Westwood’s biography exposes a number of things Tucker left out of her film. And again, you cannot help but wonder why?
Early on in Lorna Tucker’s documentary on fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, her subject looks off camera and, in complete exasperation, asks if anyone is even going to care about this movie, why anyone will ever care about what she’s taking about, and worries the whole experience will be insufferable (I am paraphrasing a bit here.).
She is expressing a sentiment common among most creative persons or artists. Why am I doing this? Is this even interesting? Will anyone care? Will they love this as much as I do? Will they understand?
Westwood – Punk. Icon. Activist. gives us Westwood, warts and all. Within 10 minutes of the movie’s beginning, she is excoriating an assistant backstage at a fashion show for green-lighting design changes she did not approve and despises immensely. She is hands-on with the presentation of the models, proudly stands as a true independent in the world of fashion (i.e. no corporate backing or financing), and presents herself as someone who never conforms.
She commands our attention instantly, and it is not impossible to understand why people gravitate to her and want to be in her presence. She is no Anna Wintour or The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly, she cares and genuinely likes people and wants to treat them well. However, she has a vision and all she brings into her circle must understand that.
Tucker’s film is an interesting glimpse at a woman who has rather quietly been at the forefront of many different style and cultural shifts since the 1960’s and early 1970’s. She is credited with creating “punk rock fashion,” during her somewhat volatile relationship with artist, music manager, and music producer Malcolm McClaren. Though they never married, they had a child together and owned a clothing store and record shop that would change its name frequently, coinciding with the latest theme or style they were representing.
When McClaren’s management of The Sex Pistols is brought up, Westwood detests talking about them, then underscores her influence on the culture that grew in and around the bad boys of the British music scene.
Westwood is a fascinating figure. On the one hand, her nonconformity should be celebrated, and yet, she was marginalized and dismissed in the fashion community for years. Her punk rock aesthetic seemed to dissipate when she finally was awarded Designer of the Year at a British Fashion Awards show in back-to-back years, and gladly accepted the prize from her peers. She embraced activism, raising awareness and fighting against climate change, nuclear disarmament, and other causes.
We meet her husband Andreas Kornthaler, a former student of hers some 20+ years her junior. Her two sons, Ben (from a marriage before her relationship with McClaren), and Joe (with McClaren), speak fondly of their mother, though Ben seems more detached and Joe takes credit for a business deal that meant his mother would never have to work again if she did not want to.
The movie settles on a sequence In 2015, where the Westwood brand expanded to a dozen storefronts and, at one of the openings, she complains about the look of the store, the music played by the DJ, and then flashes the most forced of smiles.
And yet with all of this, the film struggles to earn a 79-minute running time, with Tucker turning something of a blind eye to some stark contrasts within Westwood’s life.
She divorced her first husband because she found the expectations of marriage to be nothing she wanted to partake in, and yet has been married to Andreas for more than 20 years. She may have been one of the most influential figures of the punk rock movement of the 1970’s, but then, less than 15 years later, she is proudly receiving awards from her peers. She becomes a fighter against climate change, but Tucker fails to include the controversy Westwood faced when it was discovered her clothing and manufacturing demands were not eco-friendly.
What we get in Westwood: Punk. Icon. Activist. is interesting for the most part, but frustratingly, we see a different movie taking shape in the periphery of what we are shown. And one cannot help but wonder, as good as this movie is at times, if that other movie might have been a whole lot better.
CAST & CREW
Documentary Featuring: Vivienne Westwood, Andreas Kornthaler, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, André Leon Talley.
Director: Lorna Tucker
Release Date: June 8, 2018