Dame Vivienne Westwood has always been an outspoken critic of the establishment, and this weekend she added her voice to the growing global Occupy movement. Standing by the steps of the St Paul’s Occupy London camp, the flame-haired British fashion designer chose her words carefully, speaking about the importance of culture in the face of consumer capitalism. “What you’re doing, I think it’s wonderful,” she began, “economics is not a science, it’s simply an agreement. We need to try and get ourselves out of this mess.” Westwood asked the protesters to visit nearby galleries, “an art lover is a freedom fighter for a better world,” she told the crowd, “whatever you get involved in, you will have an anchor in life because you will understand the world you live in from the past.” Her main criticism was targeted at consumerism, “we’re completely in danger from lack of culture. We were trained up to be consumers - throw away the past, the future will take care of itself, catch the latest thing and suck it up.”
After the event, Westwood explained “Like everybody, I started caring about human rights and injustice when I was a child. But lately I asked myself, ‘what would I tell young people today, compared with what we’d said in punk rock times?’ I’d say that you have to have culture.” Speaking to Dazed, she expanded on the role of artists in the current social upheaval, “Art should be a vision of the world, to learn about the human race. But you need to have a perspective to have an opinion. Gore Vidal told me the Nobel Prize should be given to readers not writers, because everybody’s a writer but we don’t have any readers.”
Westwood has actively merged her environmental beliefs with her creative work, so it was no surprise that she sees climate change as inextricably linked with the global crisis. “I’m terrified by the problem of climate change. The financial crisis and the ecological crisis are an absolute match for each other, you’ve go one because you’ve got the other. What we do today is much more important then what we do tomorrow.” She has consistently advocated the need to act fast on climate change, in the face of James Lovelock’s predictions of mass global extinctions, as seen HERE.
Westwood’s iconic role in British culture is rooted in her activism, from her early work revolutionising British fashion to her Active Resistance to Propaganda manifesto, Westwood has used the limelight to campaign on human rights and the environment. Before she left St Paul’s she expressed delight with the new Occupy movement, “I think these people are just fantastic. We’re supposed to be in a democracy, but unless everyone starts actually behaving as if we are, we don’t have a chance. People always think someone else will do it for them. I’m so pleased for what they’re doing here, it’s absolutely wonderful. I think all young people should start doing more of this because it must be great fun.”
Photo by Alec McLeish
Follow Karen Orton on Twitter here @AaronKorton