Rachel Muckley considers the impact of Vivienne Westwood’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection and campaign.
In late 2015, Dame Vivienne Westwood launched the ‘Mirror the World’ campaign. Demonstrated with and alongside her Spring/Summer 2016 collection, it is a modern day movement to tackle the issue of climate change.
It’s primary focus is put first on the city of Venice and, subsequently, on the world. It is a venture the fashion industry are proclaiming as a unique and great cause undertaken by a unique and great designer.
The campaign was shot on location in Venice, showcasing the melancholy of the city through “its beauty and its decay,” as stated on the brand’s website, “and the urgent need to save it.” It is perhaps the case that not many top designers would brave using this spellbinding yet deconstructing city in the promotion of their work, because of the problematic relationship between the fashion world and the natural world, but Westwood’s not like that.
Instead, she takes the initiative to give a voice to this complex topic and urges society to see the world as it truly is. “ To mirror the world, to be beautiful as the world,” she claims “you must engage with the world.”
Previewing in both London’s and Paris’s Fashion Week under the ‘Red Label,’ and ‘Gold Label’ respectively, the designs boast elements of the culturally and visually inspiring city, such as the Venetian mask, an item which the designer says reflects “a time of altered states,” something very fitting to the campaign and the natural disorder it seeks to dissolve. The movement was again addressed in a people’s march that took place in London on November 29th for climate, justice and jobs and with #ClimateRevolution acting as a hugely effective medium for its circulation within the grand scope of social media.
Having been inspired by Contessa Jane de Mosto, a scientist also campaigning to save Venice and the implications of its expanding lagoon, Westwood refers to the operation as a crucial adventure we must all partake in. Reigniting her disgust for world politicians or “criminals,” as she calls them, the designer believes their worst trait lies in their insistence that nothing has changed, when the designer explains that the opposite is true: “Everything’s changed because the human race faces mass extinction … It’s a matter of life and death.”
Following on from a long list of activist campaigns, such as the fight against terrorism, issues surrounding migration and occupational injustice, this latest war against the harrowing and unforeseeable results of climate change is one which looks to engage Westwood as passionately as ever before.
Of course, any difficult subject encourages a challenging and varied response. Very expectant of a critical view to ‘Mirror the World,’ Westwood is both understanding and yet flabbergasted at such opposing outlooks: “I’m here, to sort of say something like a crazy person, because people aren’t saying it!”
However, it’s not surprising that the general reaction to the campaign has been positive. The only shred of doubt cast on it comes from highlighting Westwood herself and, as the Guardian puts it, her merging of political and fashion interests as “sometimes confusing.” This sentiment may be insulting or just plain logical; one wonders if the campaign is hypocritical and ignorant of the fact that the fashion industry, after agriculture, is the second greatest contributor to greenhouse gases. For example, is Westwood’s clothing collection even eco-friendly?
While it is true that in the past the Vivienne Westwood lines have been promoted as such, strangely, this detail has seemed to have been ironically glossed over in this SS 2016 collection. There’s no hard-hitting evidence to suggest it is. Those who have noted this fault the designer as a ‘Queen of the Greenwash,’ a person who speaks wonderfully of the action needed to combat global warming but does nothing personally to help it along.
Defending herself, the head of the iconic label is unapologetic about loving her industry and the planet equally and, yes, she does acknowledge the fundamental problems of the industry’s by-products. Her advice? Be choosier, buy less, don’t over-wash, recycle. In essence, the designer’s aesthetic encourages that we don’t perceive fashion as an enemy of our consciousness, that is, if we go about it in the right way.
Moving forward, it is hoped that the campaign, along with others like it, will bring about as much change as humanly possible. It’s a worthy cause and, by all means, one taken on by an influential humanitarian activist.
Dame Westwood is much more than her fashion industry caricature and certainly no stranger to challenging our perception of political and environmental exploits.
Her reasons for doing this are simple. She insists: “A good life is one which mirrors the world. That means that you understand the world through art and culture, you understand the genius of the human race and you understand yourself in relation to it … and you want to do your best.”
The ‘Mirror the World’ SS 16 campaign can be viewed at viviennewestwood.com