Vivienne Westwood: ‘The horror is beyond imagination’

Fashion's grand dame talks UK floods, environmental tragedy and our transforming Earth

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Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Red Label AW14
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Red Label AW14 Lea Colombo

In anticipation of her Paris fashion week show and her ongoing fight for climate revolution, we’ve invited Dame Vivienne Westwood to take over Dazed Digital. We kick it off with an exclusive video series created by Lorna Tucker, that looks back at her punk beginnings, discusses her double life of design and activism, and urges us all to join the fight. #climaterevolution

As floods steamrolled over entire towns in England and Wales this winter and politicians squabbled over what to do, one thing's for sure – climate change is most definitely very, very real. Trust Dame Vivienne Westwood, fashion's queen of the anti-establishment, to be right all along. For the last few years, her voice has been a clarion call for political action and environmental activism before the world lurches into disaster, and she has used her iconic status in fashion as a platform to campaign for real change. From her support of the anti-fracking brigade at Balcombe to her Climate Revolution campaign, she's a designer who is more than happy to pin her political colours to the mast.  

Last Sunday, before her AW14 show, Westwood spoke to Dazed about the threat Britain faces thanks to rising flood waters and chaotic weather patterns. "This flooding, it's good in the sense that it's making people realise that climate change is here and it's going to get worse," she said. "We're going to have incredibly dramatic weather transformations, and even though England will be habitable, it's going to be dreadful."

“Can you imagine what it must be like if the roof of your house gets blown off, or the floods come and smash your windows?"

"The horror is beyond imagination. We have more extreme and more frequent natural disasters at the moment – everybody knows this." 

Over 750,000 people lost electricity over Christmas due to severe weather knocking out power supplies, while over 5,000 homes have been flooded since the waters began to rise. Experts estimate that clean-up costs could hit £1 billion. 

The night before the show, myself and my husband Andreas went home on our bicycles and my god, it was really dangerous," Westwood said. "We had to get off and push them because we would have been blown into the river – the winds were really strong. Can you imagine what it must be like if the roof of your house gets blown off, or the floods come and smash your windows?"  

As she puts it: "Climate change is going to get so bad, if we don't do something about it now then nobody will be able to help anybody else." So what's the solution? Westwood has thrown her support behind the proposed ecocide law, urging people to sign an EU petition that would allow European law to hold businesses and individuals responsible for environmental destruction (like oil spills and toxic industrial pollution). So far, over 100,000 people have signed. And in the frenzy of Fashion Week reports, it's worth repeating Westwood's mantra: "Buy less, choose well, make it last".

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