I just got to spend the afternoon with the wonderful Linda Watson hearing her tell tales of Vivienne Westwood and the making of her latest book, Vogue On Vivienne Westwood. As part of Bath In Fashion 2014 Watson gave a very personal talk about the Queen of Punk at the posh Royal Crescent Hotel, scones and all. Very Vogue.
Watson told how she first encountered the designer in 1987 when she was herself a fashion student at Northumbria University. Although her final collection was based around designer Jean Muir, Watson admitted, “I’d always been mad about Vivienne!” She was lucky to meet Westwood at a drinks reception. “We got talking and we just got on. I can honestly say she is exactly the same now as she was in those early days at her Greenland Street studio in Camden.”
Watson would later work for Westwood for a brief period. This included making a dramatic ram’s head headpiece to be worn by Westwood’s muse Sara Stockbridge for a photo shoot with Michael Roberts for Tatler magazine. In the photograph Stockbridge also modelled one of Westwood’s trademark corsets. Watson recounted how she had always thought this design was called The Statue of Liberty but how Westwood had corrected her, it’s real name being The Stature of Liberty
It was a joy to hear Watson’s personal take on Westwood as she related the designer’s story through Punk, Pirates, corsets and mini-crinis, Harris Tweed, Russell Harty, Supermodels and Sarah Jessica Parker -the wedding dress worn by SJP in the film of Sex In The City was taken from Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 2007 collection called ‘Wake Up Cave Girl’.
Although Westwood had been designing since the early 1970s Watson explained that she did not get her first Vogue cover until November 1989 when Tatjana Patitz posed for photographer Peter Lindbergh wearing one of Westwood’s tailored jackets fashioned from Ancient Bruce of Kinnard tartan. The tartan bondage suits she fashioned with McLaren in 1976 were never featured. “Because of her beginnings in punk she was too out there for Vogue,” admitted Watson.
In March 1992 Westwood was photographed by Snowden and styled by Isabella Blow for a feature called Fashion Genius. She wore a dress that was a haze of tulle, hand-dyed by Westwood to be “the colour of dirt.” Vogue described her as a ‘venerable national monument’. Unfortunately following the photo shoot this exquisite dress that had been the finale of her Spring/Summer 1992 show (again worn by Stockbridge) was mistaken for rubbish and accidently thrown out from the Vogue fashion office.
Watson on Westwood:
“Vivienne hates waste of any kind. She is incredibly hard working and frugal.”
“She has never been constrained by conventional training.”
“Vivienne would never have been a fashion designer without Malcolm McLaren.”
Buffalo collection, Autumn/Winter 1983: “Malcolm told Vivienne to do it in muddy colours.”
“She says what she thinks.”
“She loves knitwear.”
“She owns very few clothes and actually discourages consumerism.”
“She has no mobile phone, no television, no car. She cycles everywhere.”
“Her mind is uncluttered. We went for a drink. All she took was a tiny bag, a toothpick and her bike.”
“She has stopped smoking but says she might take it up again when she’s in her nineties!”
“She is ageless.”
For more of Watson’s unique insight I suggest you buy the book.