Home Art Derek McCormack on Vivienne Westwood

Derek McCormack on Vivienne Westwood


Looks from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Autumn/Winter 1981–82 “Pirate” collection. Photo: Robyn Beeche.


I write this directive in honor of Vivienne Westwood.

Cease saying silly shit about style.

I write this directive as a result of Westwood liked writing directives—she printed some on shirts, DESTROY being one of the best identified. I’m making this memorial my DESTROY shirt.

Cease saying silly shit about Vivienne Westwood—she despised stupidity.

I’m writing these as a result of I adored what Westwood’s directives directed me to do: Destroy the Queen, destroy the state, destroy capitalism, destroy dumb music, destroy dumb style. I want she had stated: Destroy dumb style writing! I admired the perspective: For those who had been along with her, then you definately had been clever; in case you weren’t, then fuck you.

Cease saying you liked Vivienne Westwood—she hated you.

I’m demanding in my directives that you just, my fellow style followers, cease saying the identical stale stuff about her—demanding the unattainable was one other of her directives. I demand you cease saying that she was a grand dame, the godmother of punk, the true queen of England—it doesn’t matter if these tropes are true or false, what issues is that you just say fuck you to them and to every thing, to God and empire, even to Vogue: Destroy them the best way she did—destroy their phrases with completely different phrases.

What depraved phrases she had! What pissy pronouncements! After seeing Derek Jarman’s Jubilee in 1978, she despatched him a “letter”—really a screed, which she screen-printed onto shirts and bought on the retailer she owned with Malcolm McLaren: “I had been to see it as soon as and thought it essentially the most boring and due to this fact disgusting movie I had ever seen,” she wrote. “I’d reasonably take into account that each one this grand stuff and diamonds is one thing to do with a homosexual (which you’re) boy’s love of dressing up & enjoying at charades. (Does he have a cock between his legs or doesn’t he? Kinda factor) . . .”

What’s essential is that this: The shirt was wearing phrases. The fashions Westwood and McLaren made at their retailer had been the primary to meld literary textual content and textile. They did it as a result of—unbelievably—no person else had. They did it to see what might occur, to see if phrases might fuck up clothes and if clothes might fuck up phrases, if one might injury or destroy the opposite—so punk! They did it with the thought that new phrases and garments might be created from the destruction—wasn’t this their credo, that one ought to destroy tradition? Wouldn’t this imply that they might be each creators and critics of a brand new tradition—style design as criticism and style criticism as design?

What’s my proof for this? My proof is fuck you!

For those who don’t know Westwood’s story, then learn a fucking ebook. Vivienne Swire was born in 1941 within the central English city of Tintwistle, which I’m advised is pronounced “Tinsel.” Mr. Swire, her father, was a storekeeper; Mrs. Swire, her mom, labored at a cotton manufacturing facility. Mrs. Swire stocked her dwelling with cloth and fripperies—she made herself attire to go dancing in; in time, so did her daughter. Was there ever a designer who regarded so unimaginable in her personal garments? Was there ever a greater mannequin for Westwood than Westwood herself?

Unknown employee, Alan Jones, Chrissie Hynde, and Jordan Mooney with Vivienne Westwood at her and Malcolm McLaren’s shop Sex, London, 1976. Photo: David Dagley/Shutterstock.

Cease saying you liked Vivienne Westwood—she hated you.

For those who don’t know McLaren’s story, then learn a fucking ebook. He was a self-styled Situationist when he met Vivienne in London. It was 1965: He was nineteen, she was twenty-four. He was a pupil at artwork college; she lived with a husband, Derek Westwood, and a child and had a job educating kids. She fell for McLaren, left her partner and college for him, left to change into his accomplice in life after which in style—although she by no means actually stopped educating. Was there ever a designer so pedantic in regards to the issues she made and the issues she didn’t make? Was there ever a designer who issued so many dire directives?

Along with his assist, she grew to become who she was: designer, shit disturber, directiviste.

They opened a store, Let It Rock, at 430 King’s Highway in 1971. It specialised in togs for teddy boys, die-hard devotees of early rock ’n’ roll. McLaren thought them the final true teen revolutionaries. He situated Fifties deadstock, drainpipe trousers, drape coats, brothel creepers; she personalized a few of it, copied some, reduce some aside and put it again collectively however barely skewed—now it was one thing new.

Then, in 1972, uninterested in teds, they turned the store into Too Quick to Dwell, Too Younger to Die, promoting kinds impressed by s/m and The Leather-based Boys. These kinds included T-shirts that featured phrases—PERV on one, ROCK on one other—spelled out in hen bones and toilet-tank chains. These shirts and chains confirmed the duo’s affection for crap; additionally they confirmed their affection for style that featured phrases.

Then, in 1974, uninterested in bikers, they turned the store into Intercourse, stocking latex, leather-based, rubber, vinyl—pervert attire. The partitions had been festooned with slogans in French, the language of Debord and the Letterist Worldwide: “Sous les pavés, la plage” and “Prends ce que tu désirs pour la réalité.” T-shirts bore photos of big-dicked homosexual cowboys or an image of a black leather-based hood not in contrast to the cruder one worn by the Cambridge Rapist—however there have been phrases right here, too. The pair added a little bit of dialogue to the cowboys après la lettre—or was it après le Lettrisme? They finally bought a number of variations of Cambridge Rapist shirts: Essentially the most well-known had his tabloid title printed on him like he was a rock ’n’ curler, like he was the King or the Killer.

Jordan Mooney in front of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop Sex, London, 1976. Photo: Sheila Rock.

You possibly can say the phrases on the shirts had been there to speak one thing, however you’d be fallacious. This wasn’t communication; it was spectacle. The T-shirt is a awful medium for messaging: You may convey a slogan, however it have to be concise—passersby can’t cease you to pore over what you’re sporting. So what McLaren and Westwood did was perverse—they did manner an excessive amount of and went manner too far: They stitched up T-shirts—some with slits on the nipples, some with zippers on the nipples—then screen-printed them with an excerpt from an Alexander Trocchi textual content: I GROANED WITH PAIN AS HE EASED THE PRESSURE IN REMOVING THE THING WHICH HAD SPLIT ME AND THEN, HIS HUGE HANDS GRASPING ME AT THE HIPS MY BLONDE HAIR FORMING A POOL ON THE DARK WOOD . . .

You possibly can say the phrases on the shirts had been there to speak one thing, however you’d be fallacious. This wasn’t communication; it was spectacle.

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, armband, ca. 1976, cotton. From “Sex.”

Then, in 1976, bored by Intercourse, they turned the shop into Seditionaries. The Intercourse Pistols grew to become the home band, because it had been—McLaren managed and mismanaged them whereas Westwood made what they wore: DESTROY shirts, bondage trousers, misshapen mohair sweaters. I significantly love a T-shirt from this era that’s within the everlasting assortment of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork: Beneath a nineteenth-century illustration of Oliver Twist, that is written with a stick and ink:

They’re Dickensian-like urchins who with ragged garments and pockmarked faces roam the streets of foggy gaslit London pillaging . . . setting fireplace to buildings beating up previous individuals with gold chains. Fucking the wealthy up the arse. Inflicting havoc wherever they go. A few of these ragamuffin gangs soar on tables amidst the charred particles and with burning torches play rock ’n roll to the screaming delight of the frenzied pissing pogoing mob. Shouting and spitting “anarchy” considered one of these gangs name themselves the Intercourse Pistols . . .

I’m wondering: Did Kathy Acker learn this or put on this? I’m wondering: What’s the distinction between studying and carrying?

Look from Vivienne Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 1994–95 “On Liberty” collection. Photo: Guy Marineau/Condé Nast/Shutterstock.

Then the store become Worlds Finish in 1980. They confirmed their “Pirate” assortment of 1981 on a catwalk—a primary for them. That was additionally the 12 months they stopped being lovers; they’d stopped collaborating by 1984. He made a bid for music stardom; she made a bid to be a fantastic designer alone after which alongside a brand new husband, Andreas Kronthaler. He succeeded in a manner; she succeeded wildly. The directives stored coming: GET A LIFE, BUY LESS. The T-shirts acquired much less lewd, however literariness continued to creep by the garments. In her “Witches” assortment of 1983–84, she confirmed materials patterned on marbled endpapers. There was a group impressed partially by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—reality be advised, there have been points of Alice in a slew of Westwood’s exhibits and in a sequence of scents: Cheeky Alice, Flirty Alice, Naughty Alice, Sunny Alice. She believed that ebook imparted a vital lesson to kids: Every little thing is relative. Alice places her hand on her head to see if she’s getting greater or smaller—however isn’t her hand getting greater or smaller, too? Alice’s garments additionally develop massive, then small—has her costume change into a physique? Has it change into her physique? I consider how Westwood would set armholes manner again, or reduce neckholes near shoulders, or elongate buttocks with bustles, or pinch breasts: These appeared to be changes for the grownup Alice, for the physique free of bodiliness, the physique imbricated by books. The nine-inch heels that Naomi Campbell had on when she fell at Westwood’s “Anglomania” present in Autumn/Winter 1993–94—they weren’t too excessive; they had been the proper peak for anyone who may magically change into greater. They weren’t excessive heels; they had been rabbit holes. Westwood was the Hatter and the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. I’m right here as a cake to ship her last edict: Eat me.

Derek McCormack’s most up-to-date books are Fortress Faggot, a novel, and Judy Blame’s Obituary, a group of essays about style; he’s at work on a ebook about Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.


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