VIVIENNE WESTWOOD. The place to begin? This author was born in London, Wembley, Middlesex, to Jamaican mother and father and raised in Brooklyn from the age of six or seven. Canarsie and King’s Street are miles aside culturally, but it didn’t cease my hairdresser mother’s W subscription from arriving to our door each week at East Ninety-Sixth Avenue. I clocked the plaid bondage, the whitest of pores and skin, and the loopy pink, crimson, and blue hair. It was 1976. The security-pin piercings cinched the imagery. Loopy to suppose that one thing related to diapers and DIY clothes restore would turn into a logo of revolt and anarchy and go on to affect excessive vogue in additional methods than one. The Seditionaries tops with the Tom of Finland–like imagery additionally struck a chord: I couldn’t recover from these man-on-man photos being included into punk.
The subversion of Viv’s and Malcolm McLaren’s input-output went method past demographics: It was so frank and enlightening, completely different from all the things that was happening. I don’t know who bought the inside track first, the Village Voice or the SoHo Weekly Information, the place Kim Hastreiter was vogue editor and a mentor-hangout buddy of mine. However the Westwood-McLaren Brit invasion took maintain within the downtown tradition bubble. This was 1980–81, about half a decade after my preliminary introduction by way of W; punk was mainstream and about to cede to an embrace of Neo Romantic aesthetics. All I knew was punk was lifeless, and New Wave—the commercialization of punk ideology—was not an possibility; novelty was key.
I used to be at Brooklyn Technical Excessive Faculty after I met a set of ladies often known as the Rat Pack who launched me to the Rock Lounge, Botany, and Membership A. The beautiful Kool Woman Blue, aka Ruza Blue, introduced her lauded Friday-night “Wheels of Metal” events to the Roxy whereas additionally working Vivienne and Malcolm’s Worlds Finish 2 retailer on Prince Avenue. So Vivienne’s garments had not solely a platform however a showcase. I used to be on the market carrying the brocaded pirate pants and vests, squiggle-print scarves and T-shirts and finally the Nostalgia of Mud titty-connector fishnet tank till their ends. All these clothes have been entities unto themselves and without end cemented my notion of what garments may very well be.
Think about being a teen absorbing all this en directe. The factor about these garments is that they have been even higher in actual life than within the runway images I’d see in Italian Vogue, Blitz, the Japanese vogue journal Ryuko Tsushin, or our bible, I-D Journal. The clothes impressed whole devotion and a sure self-consciousness, which was eased by their matted but opulent glamour and anomalistic presence. Gosh, I’d have liked to be there when she was selecting the materials for the 1981–82 Pirate assortment.
It’s very troublesome to piece collectively precisely how I met Vivienne and Malcolm, however Malcolm was scooping up lots of native expertise in New York and I used to be chopping class and spending a number of time on the golf equipment and in Susanne Bartsch’s boutique and Worlds Finish 2. In 1983, on one among my second journeys to Paris for the style reveals, my girlfriend-muse Leslie Macayza, who’d modeled for Vivienne and Malcolm’s Buffalo Gals, was requested to stroll within the Witches assortment, and I bought caught placing collectively swimwear on a straight sew machine. Vivienne’s unpreparedness endeared her to me, as I’d already been amateurishly trying my very own vogue reveals with pals. I bear in mind Vivienne’s face when she spoke. She at all times gave the impression to be questioning all the things.
There’s a lot extra to say. Vivienne is the insurgent’s insurgent, imbuing her garments with historicity, private know-how, and instinct. The garments opened our notion and made us suppose. It is sensible that she began out as a primary-school instructor. Her late ’80s and ’90s work is past reproach and serves all inquiry. I’m not a historian, only a clothier with an observant but famous presence inside the group. These issues pay tribute to my timeless love and gentle spot for Vivienne, whose work with Malcolm helped encourage my ongoing obsession with vogue as a software of expression.
Andre Walker is a clothier at present primarily based in New York.