Vivienne Westwood Fashion at The De Young Fine Arts Museum

We drove through the Park to visit The De Young Fine Arts Museum. The trademark building was designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Herzog and de Meuron. The gallery unexpectedly juxtaposes artworks that challenge traditional museum presentation. In front of the museum there are cute little paths that weave through ornate gardens which feature a maze of sculptures. At certain parts of the path mist jets out from under you as some sort of symbology of the pilgrimage through the connected beauty of created human art and nature. I was ever so excited for the exclusive exhibit which had traveled to the cities of London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and finished here in San Francisco. The exhibit was a spectacle indeed and told the story of the global fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. Through hundreds of costumes, corsets, dresses, jewelry and dressed mannequins we were told the story of this small town British girl who became the most famous fashion designer in Britain.

She started her career as the catalyst for the Punk Rock movement, designing the cloths for bands such as the Sex Pistols. She is quoted as saying “Craft must have cloths but Truth loves to go naked.” Her first official catwalk collection (after opening her gutsy Punk Rock store SEX) was entitled Pirate. The Pirate collection featured an infamous t-shirt of two naked cowboys and the iconic screen printed breast shirt. Her next collection “Nostalgia of Mud” which is when the term coined Punkature was born (a combination of the words Punk and Couture) and her designs inspired the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. The Savage collection was inspired by National Geographic and Native American folklore. Her Witches collection centered around the concepts of magical esoteric sign language using over sized coats. The Hypnos collection used sleek garments made out of synthetic sports fabric in fluorescent pinks/greens and fastened with rubber phallus buttons. Her Clint Eastwood collection was inspired by wide open spaces featured in old cowboy wild wild west films. They featured neon Tokyo lights and Italian logos. Her Mini Crini and Harris Tweed collection was inspired by the ballet “Petrushka” and combined the tutu and an augmented Victorian crinoline. The “Britain Must Go Pagan” line combined traditional British themes with elements of Hellenistic Greece. Classic drapery paired with tweed, Smedly underwear featuring images of ancient Greece. In the 90’s her Maturity and Portrait collections sought to distort, exaggerate and pare away the natural shape of the body, often using the construction found in historical costume. It is here during her iconic development that I realized she was the first designer to really transform antique concepts with modern ideas to produce a new form of art. One of the pieces in this collection featured a long dark blue dress that had been screen printed gold from the design found on an antique desk found at the Palace in Versailles. Her Cut, Slash and Pull collection featured the first trendy ripped jeans where you could see bare flesh and various satin and Velvet fabrics beneath. Her trademark throughout the collection was her obsession with reworking the corset to suit different periods of time. She also displays an obsession with Scottish folklore, design and kilts. In her more modern collections she focuses on ornate costume dresses. I enjoyed her “Recycles Grey Sweatshirt Dress.” She stands out to me as a woman who loves diagonals, slants and angles. A famous Westwood moment was when Naomi Campbell fell on the catwalk wearing a Super elevated Ghilllie platform shoe which is featured at the V&A Museum in London. Her Viva La Cocotte collection is a glamorous sight. She created ball gowns and suits with ornate glass beading and an over use of ostrich feathers. The dress entitled Queen of Shiba is decorated in beads that outline the breasts and torso of a woman. The “cherry on top” in this case are the nipples which are original antique Ruby diamonds! In 2006 she created a small line of “I am not a terrorist please do not arrest me,” in response to the current political issues in Britain. As we left the exhibit we read a bold letters on the wall a hilarious quote by the designer, “You have a much better life if you wear impressive cloths.” True that.

We walked through the bookstore directly outside of the exhibit and flipped through the Westwood book and I gawked at the most beautiful t-shirt. She made a punk rock t-shirt for the tour. The simple white shirt features huge red lips on the front and reads “Westwood World Tour” on the back listing the cities the show traveled to. As it her cloths were on some sort of concert tour. I was bent on buying one when I realized they were 150 dollars each! I was certain it was going to be a reasonable 30 dollar t-shirt. Wishful thinking. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the de Yong permanent collection. A rich collection of tribal art from North America, As George ia and Africa. Deborah Oropallo had an interesting room exhibit dedicated to her photographic images that overplay and mingle with the idea of gender scripts. Her huge oil entitled “” features two images drawn on top of each other: what seems like a hooker with high heals and short skirt and a navy officer standing ona battleship.

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