Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life

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9780002556255: Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life

The first biographical portrait of one of England’s great eccentrics and leading fashion designers – the outrageously controversial fashion anarchist, agent provocateur and sacred cow of the international fashion world, Vivienne Westwood.

For two decades, Vivienne Westwood has been Britain’s most consistently original, outrageous and controversial designer. In that time she has evolved from an iconoclastic outsider to an internationally revered figure, with two British Designer of the Year awards, an OBE, her own successful fashion label and an unrivalled reputation for leading where other designers follow.
Yet Westwood has never ceased to excite passionate feelings, both for and against. The extravagance and even scandalousness of her designs, together with her sometimes bizarre pronouncements on life, culture and fashion, have firmly – but perhaps erroneously – established her in the public mind as an outlandish eccentric. Her lifestyle could scarcely be in greater contrast to the opulence which surrounds other leading designers: she continues to live in a modest council flat in South London, and travels around the capital by bicycle, dressed in her own flamboyant creations, with a plastic bag protecting her hair from the elements. What was it that drove an awkward girl from a conventional and provincial background to become – comparatively late in life – one of world fashion’s most influential and respected designers? How has she managed to remain true to her own idiosyncratic vision, refusing to conform to the fashion
industry’s, and society’s, expectations? And how important to her career have been the men in her life: Malcolm McLaren, with whom she originated the punk movement that was to change British popular music and youth culture for ever; Gary Ness, her shadowy intellectual mentor; and Andreas Kronthaler, her current husband, almost twenty-five years her junior?
Now, in the first full biography of this extraordinary and complex figure, Jane Mulvagh reveals the truth behind the bizarre and often contradictory public image. Speaking to Westwood herself, her friends, lovers, colleagues, rivals, admirers and detractors, and drawing on her own expertise as a fashion historian, she has created a portrait as rich, distinctive and constantly surprising as her subject’s character and work.

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Review:

Age has not dimmed Britain's most outrageous designer. Since she exploded on to the fashion scene more than 20 years ago, Vivienne Westwood--with her influential succession of London shops such as SEX, her famous partnership with punk impresario Malcolm McLaren, her season after season of eclectic collections--has been a controversial and sometimes bizarre figure.

Born in Glossop, Derbyshire in 1941, Westwood was a schoolteacher, wife, and mother when she met McLaren in 1965. He immediately challenged what he viewed as her provincial misconceptions, and channelled her huge artistic creativity. "I was a coin and he showed me the other side", she later said. Her designs and his entrepreneurial flair ensured the duo a place in British rock and fashion history as the inspiration behind the styles of punk and New Romanticism. By 1983, when both their personal and professional partnership was over, Westwood had become a formidable fashion force in her own right, and even teetered on the edge of the Establishment when she was awarded the OBE in 1992--though she did turn up knickerless to the ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Jane Mulvagh, a fashion historian with an insider's experience of the designer world, has written a packed and exhilarating biography of the woman who has twice been British Designer of the Year, and who continues to exasperate, scandalise, and inspire--but never to emulate. --Catherine Taylor

Review:

‘The most compelling fashion biography for years. Honest, witty, perceptive, vivid. Each chapter is filled with insights’ Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune
‘A commanding study. Westwood’s life is rendered with intensity and precision’ Simon Garfield, Mail on Sunday
‘A very good book: immaculately researched and full of original observations’ Stephen Bayley, Observer
‘Nobody could read this book and not understand why it is that Westwood continues to interest and infuriate in equal measure’ Lucia van der Post, Financial Times

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