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Vivienne Westwood
Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood

Everything is connected: a love letter to Vivienne Westwood

Johnny Valencia of Pechuga Vintage recalls his six years working with the punk visionary and bringing her clothes to a whole new generation of fashion fans in this moving tribute

“Everything is connected.” These were the three words that Vivienne Westwood once said that changed my life forever. The woman who created clothing for Punks in 1977, for Pirates in 1981, and for Pagans in 1991 was the same woman who found it important to know the name of plants, to speak up for those that couldn’t speak for themselves, and to mobilise international attention around ecological crusading. 

Dame Westwood leaves behind a legacy that will impact future generations to come, she was a design powerhouse and one of the greatest thinkers modern history has known. By successfully melding art history, philosophy, and fashion she created a world that so many wanted to live in, and that’s what made Westwood so grand.

The past didn’t define Westwood’s present but it greatly influenced the way she saw the world. In fact, her infamous orb logo symbolises that ethos: Taking from the past, from tradition, and bringing it forward through reinterpretation. Westwood didn’t simply hike up hemlines, cinch in waists, and make you taller, she also made you dream. She was an advocate for the marriage between intellect and exquisite taste and remained a student until she passed away. 

Before I started my own business, Pechuga Vintage, I experienced firsthand what so many in Westwood’s company referred to as: the Westwood way. So what was “the Westwood way”? The Westwood way was chaotic at times, it was confusing, but it was also gorgeous and extremely rewarding. 

A bit of a back story: I started working for Vivienne Westwood back in 2012 as a showroom intern in the Los Angeles office and climbed my way up. For six years, I treated her business as if it were my own. However, by 2017 I realized that I had reached my limit within the company and that Westwood was bigger than the confines of her contemporary collections. See, the longer I worked for the Dame, the more I felt an urgency to tell people about her. I felt that this beauty, this raw talent, this philosophy that transcended language had to be shared, so I pulled a Westwood on Westwood and looked to her own archives. 

I will absolutely never forget the first pieces I discovered: A tartan jacket from Five Centuries Ago AW97, and a corset from Les Femmes SS96, a Boulle print velvet bomber from Portrait AW90, which cost three times my rent at the time but I didn't care. I didn't even think of having my own business at that point so you can only imagine how irrational it was at that time to purchase pieces that were just going to be sitting in my closet. But again, I didn't care. Not one bit. I viewed these pieces as art and with every piece I collected I would spend hours doing the research trying to understand why Westwood had created it. Pechuga came later, with Lisa from BLACKPINK wearing that very Portrait bomber, and the likes of Bella Hadid and Grimes helping me turn Westwood corsets into a global trend. 

Westwood knew that it was imperative to understand the world that we inhabit. “You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read… You’ve got to find out the names of plants… And know about the whole genius of the human race,” she said backstage at her Red Label show in 2013. What I found the most comforting working for her was the feeling that I’d finally arrived. Someone had made these wildly luxurious clothes for a frenetic nerd like me. How was this possible? I needed to know why and when and how I could find more of it. 

As someone who had spent his entire life buried in books (before discovering Westwood I was training to be a Diplomat for El Salvador), being able to wear whatever I wanted in the company of Westwood was liberating. There was no gender conformity; if you didn't have it on hand, you were encouraged to make it. There were no rules, if a stitch came undone, OK – safety pin it and move on. Or deconstruct and rebuild. There were no bounds to the imagination when it came to dressing up. There was only “the Westwood way”. 

In 2018, I decided to pursue my passion for collecting and archiving as a full time job and it was due to all the invaluable lessons that I had learned under Westwood that gave me the courage to take the leap. For this courage and for these life lessons I will be forever grateful and thus Vivienne will always have a special place in my heart. 

Please realise that everything in life is connected. What we decide to wear impacts how we feel. This has actually been scientifically proven. The seemingly simple task of putting on a piece that makes you feel beautiful in the morning is enough to brighten your mood. Go on, test it out. And remember Westwood’s adage: “You have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes”. You don’t necessarily have to wear Westwood to feel that effect, but trust me, it sure does help.