Lessons in being bold by Vivienne Westwood

Talking character and contentment with some of London’s finest at the Bread & Butter by Zalando preview event in Berlin

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Courtesy of Zalando

“You don’t have to call me Dame, I’m Vivienne,” Dame Vivienne Westwood told Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack in Berlin last month. Along with other creative talents such as model and activist Adwoa Aboah and artist Fergus Purcell, they were gathered to launch Zalando’s music and fashion mash-up Bread & Butter (B&&B) which will take place from September 1st-3rd in Berlin. 

The theme this year is ‘BOLD’, and it doesn’t get any bolder than Westwood. Remember when she collected her OBE at Buckingham Palace? She did it in fantastic grey tailoring – and spun around like a whirligig for photographers to snap she wasn’t wearing any knickers. Bear in mind Westwood is an ardent fan of the Queen and Prince Charles. They don’t come any more original than her.

“I think that you have to make a choice, and I think that at least 50% of the people in the world have never made a choice in their lives,” Westwood explains lucidly to Dazed’s founder, on the topic of boldness. “I think that these same 50% of people have never acted, they’ve just followed their desire. They think they’re making a decision, the never did it, they just consumed.

”A couple of hours before Hack and Westwood hit the stage, I put it to her that she is one of (maybe) four designers of the 20th century that truly invented their own unique language – to the effect where those who don’t follow clothes could still point and yell ‘that’s a Westwood!’ (You can guess the other vanguards. Westwood is the only one still designing).

“I think you’re onto something there – that’s why my clothes become classics,” she processes. “I design them, they’ve got a character… it could be a pirate, for example. Then when somebody buys it, they become a pirate. You don’t have to spell it out – you are an interesting person. My clothes are very theatrical. You’re playing a part, but it’s another you. It’s a story.”

“I’m about designers wanting to make beautiful clothes at the right price. Then people can make a choice. That’s what I do. I’m here at this particular event to say the most important thing I’ve ever said about fashion: buy less, choose well, make it last.” For Westwood, character is like “a bag of tools.” And once you understand that it unlocks something quite overwhelming.

“I’m going to tell you something from Aristotle that I put together – ‘the acorn is happy to become an oak’. “I think what’s interesting about that statement is that it’s a definition of happiness. I don’t think for example that people are happy killing each other – they’re happy when they become their real, best human self. We’ve got to live our lives according to the potential of our species, to do wonders in the world.”

Westwood will return to Berlin in September for B&&B, with an exhibition focusing on her legacy. There will also be another talk panel discussion with her as part of the new B&&B Talks format – and you’re going to want to listen, she has a lot to say, all of it unfiltered. “I’m going to give a talk called ‘Intellectuals Unite: Reading Matters’,” she teases. “What it’s about is the association of ideas – you read one book, you get something and you read another book, you build an understanding of things.” It’s worked for her, why couldn’t it for you? 

Bread & Butter by Zalando – The Festival of Style and Culture takes place 1st–3rd September in Berlin, featuring more from Vivienne Westwood as well as a talk from Gurls Talk founder Adwoa Aboah, fashion shows and live music. Tickets are available from here

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