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Vivienne Westwood, ‘Art, Mode et Subversion’, at Musée des Tissus, in Lyon opens September 2020

Lyon’s textile museum is the first in France to devote an exhibition to British Vivienne Westwood born in 1941. Back-bone of the show is the collection of her former collaborator British Lee Price, now a resident of Lyon.

The work of self-taught fashion designer Westwood, ranging from punk-wear to military cuts, draws on historical costumes, playing with British cultural codes. Curated by director Esclarmonde Monteil, assisted by Juliet Ruffet-Mouss, the show is organized chronologically and thematically in five sections.

15 Août 2020 - 15:45

Exhibition poster, Vivienne Westwood, Art, Mode and Subversion@Musée des Tissus, Lyon
Exhibition poster, Vivienne Westwood, Art, Mode and Subversion@Musée des Tissus, Lyon

Vivienne Westwood’s creative journey

Westwood quit work as a primary schoolteacher in 1971, to set up shop selling 1950s clothes and records on 430 King’s Road, Chelsea, London with her partner Malcom McLaren. She began creating outfits for punks who rejected the government under harsh economic conditions. Defying the British Establishment in 1974 with a new concept proposing latex and leather clothes, chains and stiletto heels, inspired by pornography and fetishism, the pair reflected and inspired societal change in the punk movement.

In the early 1980s they created collections and fashion shows under the label ‘Worlds End’, revealing Westwood’s research of clothing in non-Western societies. The first collections reflected unisex and loose-fitting looks while the collection, ‘Witches’ was inspired by punk culture of New York City. In 1983 Vivienne Westwood stopped collaborating with Malcolm McLaren.

V.Westwood, 'Active Resistance' SS 2006, Paris©Guy Marineau
V.Westwood, 'Active Resistance' SS 2006, Paris©Guy Marineau

Arabesque and Rococo mid-1980s until end 1990

Historicism fueled Westwood’s inventiveness interpreting iconic pieces in costume history like crinolines or corsets, which reflected her taste for paintings and decorative arts of the 18th century, discovered at the Wallace Collection in London. Some of these artefacts are displayed in Lyon, next to selected textiles and pieces of decorative arts from the Textile Museum’s own collections.

Vivienne Westwood delved into iconic sources, researching sewing techniques, costumes and fashion history. Her fascination for the ‘fashion victims’ of the Enlightenment, French 18th century nobility’s excess and frivolity, created new paths for her to explore like her contemporaries Lacroix, Gaultier and Galliano.

The British fashion designer constructed and deconstructed whalebone corsets, panniers and plunging necklines, reflected in her collection Portrait (1990), continued in recent fashion shows with her husband Andreas Kronthaler. Westwood used colorful French Jouy cotton fabrics, followed by darker fabric colors, and later stricter military cuts, transforming these into 20th century fashion. She even reinvented tweed and tartan creating her own McAndreas tartan named after her husband. Westwood titled her Autumn/Winter 1993-1994 collection ‘Anglomania’, a homage to her love of all things English.

V.Westwood, Footwear, collection of Lee Price©Pierre Verrier, Musée des Tissus, Lyon
V.Westwood, Footwear, collection of Lee Price©Pierre Verrier, Musée des Tissus, Lyon

Vivienne Westwood in her workshop

As mentioned, Vivienne Westwood took apart clothes to analyze them and then sew them back together to understand the cut and construction. Westwood’s designs start with a sketch and draping experimental fabrics on a miniature mannequin to give shape to an idea, followed by a prototype called a ‘toile’. The mixture between 'French ‘savoir-faire’ practiced in ‘haute couture’ and fine British tailoring' constitutes the foundation of Westwood’s personal style, whether for women or men. The couturier is committed to an economic model with the slogan ‘buy less’ and ‘choose well’, promoting quality rather than quantity.

As for footwear, the designer believes that it exists in its own right, an integral part of fashion. Her shoes and boots are veritable sculptures that complete each look. To produce these impressive shoes, Westwood cooperated with highly skilled shoemakers, first British John Amathus, then Italian manufacturer MEG. This unique footwear completes the signature Vivienne Westwood look.

Westwood manifests a strong stance in favor of environment, social justice and human rights, reflected in her fashion during the past 20 years. Beginning in the 2010s, her commitment to ecology is omnipresent in her collections, as she and her husband Kronthaler collaborate with the organizations ‘Cool Earth’ and ‘Greenpeace’.

Textile Museum, Lyon©Sylvain Pretto, Musée des Tissus, Lyon
Textile Museum, Lyon©Sylvain Pretto, Musée des Tissus, Lyon

Textile Museum, Lyon

34, Rue de la Charité, 69002 Lyon
Telephone for information : +33 (04) 78384200
You must reserve your tickets in advance
Obligation to wear masks during your visit
Closed on Mondays
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am – 6pm, except for holidays

Vivienne Westwood, "Art, Mode et Subversion"

Kunang Helmi-Picard
Fatma Kunang Helmi was born in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Education in Switzerland, Australia and... En savoir plus sur cet auteur

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