vivienne westwood’s active resistance

Vivienne Westwood is known by most as a fashion designer, who was responsable for giving the punk movement its fashion in the 70s. Less known is the fact that Vivienne is also an activist against climate change. In her manifesto ‘Active Resistance to Propaganda’ characters like Pinocchio and Alice from Alice in Wonderland show us how non-stop distraction is the worst evil in today’s world. Through these characters Westwood stresses the importance of art and reading and learning how to think for ourselves.

Art has always taken centre stage in Westwood’s work (most of her iconic designs are inspired by pieces of art to be found in one of the many musea in London). But not any type of art will do. Westwood is really specific about this in her TEDx Observe talk, where she discourages people to visit the Tate Modern. “Don’t go to the Tate Modern. It is totally superficial. You will not be able to get anything out, because you get out what you put in. And there is nothing to put in there.” According to Westwood, when you look at a piece of art, you look at the world through the eyes of the artist. This will learn you something of the past and only when we understand our past we can understand the now and the future. This understanding will then lead to an awareness that we all need to act and change our lives in order to stop climate change.

At first glance it might seem that her work as a designer and seller of clothes and her manifesto are conflicting, but Westwood is one of the very few entrepreneurs who actually sends out a message against too much consumption: “Buy less, choose well and make it last.” Also, she uses her designs to spread her message. Take for instance the s/s 08 collection addressing politics:

photo from

I’m not sure that I completely agree with her views on modern art, but I do think she has a point saying we today are too distracted to see what really matters. We need to slow down and find new appreciation for things that take a bit more time to digest than your average fashion blogs, Justin Bieber and Batman. “I think we can have a life that is more happy, more meaningful and costs less, actually, if we get off this consumer treadmill.” Amen.


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