Now You Know: Finally, You Can Relive Vivienne Westwood's '70s Punk Scene
Welcome to Now You Know, Eric Wilson’s column that will help you become a fashion know-it-all in one easy read. Each week, he’ll take a look at an endearing fashion influence and why it’s relevant right now. Enjoy!
Next week, Opening Ceremony and Vivienne Westwood will begin selling a capsule collection called Worlds End, named after Westwood’s London store that has gone under various aliases in its 40-plus-year history. Westwood’s business past is a complicated story (what else would you expect from the mother of punk fashion?), although Ian Kelly’s recent biography of the designer helped resolve some of the confusion by keeping track of its various incarnations.
Before it was Worlds End, the Chelsea store, at 430 Kings Road, was once called Let it Rock. It also went by Sex, then Seditionaries, and then Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die. You can imagine it must have been difficult to order stationery. Westwood notes that the name changes were more in line with the evolution of the collections she created.
In 1970, she and her then boyfriend, Malcolm MacLaren, sold fashion there for men who popularized a '50s-inspired look known as Teddy Boy, under the name Let it Rock. Each time they designed a new collection, they changed the name, and the entire décor of the store, until 1981, when Westwood had her first runway show. That collection, conceived as “clothes for pirates,” was called Worlds End.
Westwood’s provocative fashion philosophy has always included a strong advocacy for recycling ideas, such as by continuing to reissue classic designs, for reasons both environmental and practical. Why waste all that leftover fabric? This brings us to the new Opening Ceremony collection, which goes on sale Monday at Opening Ceremony stores in New York and L.A. It’s practically a visual history of her work, with many echoes to past collections, and it’s unisex to boot. The look, the store says, is Urban Guerrilla, “a rebel sporting political slogans and original statement clothing.” Westwood had previously only sold those cult-favorite designs from the Worlds End collection, which is separate from her signature ready-to-wear, in her London store. So, in a sense, Opening Ceremony is bringing her sartorial warfare to a wider audience for the first time.
Among the designs are reissues of items like the “Drunken Anarchy Shirt,” a look from a 2010 collection covered with patches and slogans saying things like, “Do it yourself,” and “Active Resistance.” That design referenced an even early Westwood Anarchy shirt from 1976, so you can see her fondness for fighting the power goes back a long way. There are also pants and toga shirts from Westwood’s first pirates-themed collection. And a flight jacket taken from the fall 1983 collection should give some idea of how this designer’s mind works. That show was originally called “Clint Eastwood’s Bomber Jacket.”
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