THREE STARS Documentary about the life of fashion designer, punk icon and climate activist, Vivienne Westwood.
Since the mid 1970’s, whenever a noise was made Vivienne Westwood was often the one making it. In cahoots with her then boyfriend Malcolm McLaren, she launched the punk movement and turned British society upside down. While McLaren pursued music, Westwood went on to become a major force in fashion and spawned an international chain of stores. Yet despite her obvious talent, the establishment took a long time to accept her even if they never seemed to forgive her for ripping up the rule book. Not that she particularly cares, having always been a woman who did exactly what she wanted to do. These days that includes campaigning about climate change. Vivienne Westwood: punk, icon, activist.
This is the arc of Lorna Tucker’s compelling documentary told almost entirely from Westwood’s point of view. The designer reluctantly recounts her early life - “Let me just talk and get it over with!” she commands archly - and proceeds in a fairly linear fashion passing through punk, motivation and message until we reach Westwood the campaigner. Celebrity models, colleagues and family chime in with their views along with more interesting accounts from her long time collaborator, former student and now husband, Andreas Kronthaler.
WESTWOOD is an always interesting account of the grand Dame’s life, if one that straddles a line between adoration and exasperation (at various times both Tucker and Westwood seem to find one another extremely frustrating). This frisson simmers in the background as Tucker profiles her subject and her subject’s fascinating life - the documentary aims to gild the designer and achieves exactly that. There’s also a sense that there are more interesting places to go and stories left untold, but at 80 minutes, there’s not enough time in which to tell them. One outstanding miss is the dichotomy between her anti-establishment sensibility and the grey, corporate reality of owning a retail empire.
Still, there’s no denying Westwood’s remarkable legacy and even if we don’t leave her company fully understanding what that is - her reticence makes sure of it - we’ve had a great time getting closer than we’d been before.