Vivienne Westwood: Eco-Punk Means 'World's End' for Opening Ceremony
Vivienne Westwood and her infamous ‘World’s End’ boutique have teamed up with New York's retailer, Opening Ceremony. It marks the London shop’s next phase - putting iconic vintage pieces into the hands of global fashion rebels. Le Souk unearths the early days of World’s End - looking at the fabrics, prints and textures, and its unconventional recycling of cloth - taking off-cuts from Westwood's Gold Label collection to become a mouthpiece for eco-punk activism.
Dame Vivienne Westwood has hand selected several garments from her bricks-and-mortar World's End boutique in London to feature on the racks of prominent multi-brand store, Opening Ceremony. The fashion edit includes designs from Westwood’s seventies and eighties time capsule of clothes. Designed as mouthpieces of positive activism over the two decades, Westwood’s new ‘Clothes for Heroes’ line for Opening Ceremony is ultimately unisex, featuring the ‘inter titty’ t-shirt and sweatshirts; key denim wear; and her "three tongue" sneakers – all originally sold at the British designer's King's Road boutique in 1971.
Opening Ceremony confirmed the capsule collection via its blog this week. The New York-based retailer described their newest recruit as coming from “an era that defined the punk generation”. Other, more out-there, pieces in the collection include the pinstripe ‘drunken anarchy’ shirt. Modeled after the original 1976 ‘Anarchy’ shirt, it is made from bleached-out pinstripes and patches of political slogans, with a cut off-kilter to appear drunk. A second is the ‘propaganda’ sweatshirt - a slouchy pullover printed with red-and-black political slogans. The loosened crewneck, cuffs, and hem are finished with ribbed elastic in red, black, and white stripes.
According to Opening Ceremony, each piece was carefully selected for its influential "status" concept and defiant DIY spirit.
"My love for Dame Vivienne Westwood and her creative legacy has truly been a life-long affair. In particular, her impact and relevance extend beyond fashion and into all the cultures that Opening Ceremony also embraces: from music, film, and art, to politics, civil rights, and environmental causes ... This reissue has never been done before, and we could not be more excited to share our favorites from Vivienne's work with a new generation," said Opening Ceremony co-founder, Humberto Leon.
From a construction and fabric perspective, Westwood used prized, leftover scraps to form each and every World’s End collection. It is all part of the designer’s environmental plight to use extra cuts from her Gold Label collection – home of Westwood’s most luxurious couture creations, worn by celebrities on the 2015 Grammys red carpet recently. Incredibly, these remnants of couture make for the cloth that forms seasonal collections sold from her anarchic shop in Chelsea.
World's End: The History
Located on 430 King’s Road, World’s End is the awkward uncle of British fashion – special, often offensive but unconditionally loved. In 1970, Westwood and her partner, Malcolm MacLaren moved in to the Chelsea shopfront. Calling it “Let it Rock” the pair filled it with self-made Teddy Boy clothes and fifties fashion, marking their first seasonal collection debut. Each time the duo designed a new collection the name of the shop (and all the décor and signage) would change too. Come 1981, Westwood and MacLaren went public, showing their first catwalk show, parading costume-inspired apparel fit for pirates. It was called ‘Worlds End’. Ironically, the couple separated soon after and the shop kept the name, like the collection, ‘World’s End’.
The store, its clothes and how they are sustainably produced officially became a vehicle for Westwood’s postive activist ideas. She internally posed the question: “What would I tell young people today?” The answer was: “Get a Life!” and “Stop sucking up”. And finally: “You get out what you put in”.
By putting down ideas as graphics on t-shirts, Westwood was inspired to write the AR Manifesto or Active Resistance to Propaganda. It is “a journey to find Art. Art gives Culture and Culture is the antidote to Propaganda,” Westwood believes. Westwood’s wildly punk approach to design is aimed at encouraging freethinking.
“Read, go to art galleries, find out the names of trees and birds, study the past – to understand the present; knowledge is armour for the Freedom Fighter,” she tells followers on the ‘World’s End’ website.
World’s End: The collections
1981: The 'Pirate' collection offered a romantic look mixed with the Third World. Tiring from the bleakness and blackness of punk, Westwood visited London’s V&A Museum for new direction, and looked to historical dress. She developed ethnic cutting techniques based on rectangles, and began trialing knock-ups in rough, small scale on a little dummy. Through various adjustments and fittings she created full-scale finished garments in silk, cotton, leather and wool (think baggy pirate trousers and hippy-inspired pants in tight-butt fit). And the iconic squiggle print was also born, developed from trying to symbolize rope. Westwood also showed experimentation with necklines, moving the neck hole to the side of the shirt shoulder - asymmetrical.
SS82: ‘Savage’ combined Native American patterns with leather frock coats, Foreign Legion hats worn back-to-front, 'petti-drawers' and shorts.
AW82: ‘Nostalgia of Mud’ saw clay-colored garments with raw cut sheepskin. Lace bras took on underwear-worn-as-outerwear forms – another trend cemented by Westwood. Peruvian women were further inspiration, wearing bowler hats and full skirts.
SS83: 'Punkature' saw Westwood’s return to punk. Distressed fabric and recycled junk recreated desert landscapes inspired by the film Blade Runner.
AW83: Westwood looked to the work of the New York graffiti artist Keith Haring for ‘Witches’. Garments were printed in neon colors on backgrounds that resembled firework paper. Oversized jackets, double-breasted jackets and huge cream cotton mackintoshes featured with knitted jacquard bodies, tube skirts and pointed hats. Customized trainers had three tongues evoking the freeze-frame effect of strobe lighting and the jerky sounds of rap music.
SS84: ‘Hypnos’ featured luxe garments made from synthetic sports fabric in neon pinks and greens - fastened with rubber phallus buttons.
AW84: ‘Clint Eastwood’ was inspired by wide-open spaces seen in Western films. It included a bomber jacket cut without a curved line. Instead, a triangular gusset was placed at the back of the neck below the collar to create roundness. To give the necessary extra volume in the sleeve and shoulder joint, a diamond shaped gusset was added in the armpit area. Thick wool knit ribbing lined the coat at the waist and hips.
SS85: At the time of the power shoulder, Westwood turned silhouettes upside – literally, for her ‘Mini-Crini’ line. It was an ode to Minnie Mouse with puffed out skirts of tulle and lace. Further inspiration came from the ballet Petrushka, which combined the tutu with an abbreviated form of the Victorian crinoline.
AW87: The 'Harris Tweed' collection was named after the classic wool fabric - Harris Tweed, hand-woven in the Western Isles of Scotland (where tartan originates too). Wool was also linked to the British Monarchy. Westwood said: “I’m not really trying to be English…you can’t avoid it, it’s what you’ve absorbed. I do have fun knowing that I am doing it. I very much enjoy parody and this English sort of lifestyle…and I really am in love with the fabrics”. The Harris Tweed was inspired by the playful fashions of the Queen as a child. Tailored and sexy, the collection was lightheartedly subversive and perfectly punk. It also introduced the corset into contemporary fashion again.
World’s End: No End
Westwood's World’s End continues to reissue classic designs and accessories from past collections such as ‘Pirate’, ‘Mini-Crini’ and ‘Harris Tweed’ - for both Opening Ceremony and her store on King's Road. It’s a smart move from Westwood, who is able to minimize garment development costs typically associated with generating new cloth and fits. More than that, fabrics and silhouettes are able to be redefined and perfected as time goes by, enhancing the brave essence of World’s End and its stay power in the British fashion landscape.
The clothes retain an ethnic basis, and remain artisanal and handmade. Leftover fabrics to make the clothes are still taken from Westwood’s Gold Label collection. Each season, meanwhile, a new design from the Gold line is adapted and punked-up for Wold’s End, being sold directly from the King's Road store. This piece sits along the regular World's End collection as well as other treasures such as Gold Label sample pieces, toiles, show jewelry and accessories (DIY items, boxers, towels and hats). Reworking the old and luxurious, World’s End allows Westwood to express in full-force her eccentricity. And get away with it.
Westwood's final words on the World’s End website sums up well the designer's approach to recycled fabric. Her appreciation of luxury and nice things goes surprisingly well with her positive activism philosophy: “Never have a sale. Buy less. Choose well. Make it last!”.
The World's End X Opening Ceremony collection is available instore and online here.