Saturday, 31 May 2008

Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer

I attended a press conference at the Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo, on the 22nd of November, 2005, to introduce an exhibition celebrating the career of Vivienne Westwood. While she was taking questions from the Japanese press through interpreters, I was able to ‘buttonhole’ the famous fashion designer and ask her a few questions. Immediately before I spoke to her, she had been talking about ‘propaganda’ and the way people’s minds are overloaded and distracted.

CBL: Isn’t fashion part of that distraction, though?

VW: Um, well, you might say that, y’know, going to the theater is part of that distraction. You might say that eating a meal is part of that distraction. I’m just saying don’t only eat McDonalds, y’know, and don’t just have all this, y’know, this, um, y’know... Be discriminating and don’t consume just for the sake of consuming, y’know, I mean... So, no, it’s not non-stop distraction necessarily at all. It’s… But anyway I don’t wish to defend fashion. I mean, if people don’t wish to buy fashion and, y’know, they just cant be bothered, that’s up to them, y’know. I mean, they, they must make the choice. Just asking them to make the choice, not, not to just consume because somebody’s telling them thats what they ought to do and they’re just programmed to consume.

CBL: It’s like having a TV set like when you’ve lost the remote control and you can’t switch it off.

VW: I think the greatest of those evils is the non-stop distraction because if you’re constantly bombarded with music, whatever it is – people suffer from a lack of solitude: you have to be alone... And I just made this speech earlier on, and this is my message, .but the thing is I can’t read the book for you You have to do it. I mean I can only say please have courage, y’know, pursue anything intellectual, em, because… I would really like to say switch off. And by the way just to answer your question a bit more fully, my favourite answer that I gave last season at a fashion show… Somebody said to me I’ve just done a menswear collection, and they said what would you like young men to buy next season. I said nothing.

CBL: Yeh.

VW: So, I’m not saying you have to buy it, I’m just saying…

CBL: So, people should sort of dip in and out of fashion if they’re behaving naturally, probably?

VW: I just think you’ve got one life and you have to just choose if you want a real experience in your life or if you want to be, y’know, have this virtual experience and just be this cipher, and, as I said, I would like the World to be a better place, and there’s no chance if people don’t think and just consume the latest propaganda and buy the latest, y’know, whatever it is that fills this gap, y’know.

CBL: Maybe that’s connected to how, how…

VW: Thinking. You don’t have a gap if you’re thinking. You can’t get in there, y’know.

CBL: Yeh. I saying, maybe that’s connected to how passive people are or how, y’know, assertive they are.

VW: Well I think that’s this is what this pill is about. It’s about y’know... People say to me, y’know, ‘Oh you’re too pessimistic,’ y’know, ‘The World will get better.’ Why? And they say, they say ‘I believe in young people.’ And really I don’t believe in young people. They’re the last thing you should believe in because, no, no, because, y’know, right now… When I was a baby I was not bombarded quite so much as the children today. I mean Kofi Annan he just said the aim of the United Nations is to give every child in the World a laptop. Now then, I don’t know. Presumably that means that somehow they can get educated, but to me its taking away education. It’s more distraction, honestly. And, so, that to me is propaganda. Let’s have everybody thinking the same or not able to think at all.

CBL: Is that part of the reason…

VW: Your filling their head. You take away imagination. Every time you press buttons, it’s as… You’re not thinking. You’re looking at a page and you’ve read something, you’re thinking. Every time you play one of those games, a child has no imagination. Imagination is the most important part of intelligence.

Interpreter: Sorry, I’m sorry, could I just interrupt for the benefit of the other people.

VW: Sorry. No, but I mean, nevertheless that was part of this answer wasn’t it.

[Interpreter goes into translation mode]

CBL: Well, everybody else has to catch up with that.

VW: Sorry.

CBL: She's trying to fill in everybody else.

VW: It’s amazing how she remembers.

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