Consumers desire for the latest trends at rock bottom prices, or ‘fast fashion’ has meant that retailers like Primark are popping up on every high street. Because of this the fashion industry has come into the firing line about its practices and procedures for making and acquiring such cheap clothing. The reason being that because of this, somewhere workers are being forced to work in poor conditions for even poorer wages. And unfortunately, there aren’t many people doing much about it. But amongst the litter of throwaway fashion there is one woman in particular who is putting her designs to good work.
Dame Vivienne Westwood has made herself an institution of the British fashion industry since her heyday as a pioneering punk in the 1970s. Even back then she was busy trying to do things differently, using clothes to send political and ideological middle fingers to the uptight echelons of society. But punk soon went mainstream and subcultures became niche markets for quirky magazines, so Westwood moved onto new, more challenging causes.
Most recently the award-winning designer has turned her attention to global warming. Championing anything eco-friendly when you make and sell clothes for a living is a tricky position to be in, but Westwood is using her place at the top of the global market to good effect. After all, a little bit of controversy goes a long way and no one wants to listen to a middle aged scientist talking about the do’s and don’ts of sustainable living. It just ain’t cool.
Since setting up the global awareness campaign, Active Resistance, Westwood has channeled her celebrity through various outlets, using the catwalk as her stage. At this year’s London Fashion Week her Red Label show aimed for quality over quantity with a much shorter line than most of her competitors. She’s also been urging Kate Middleton to wear the same clothes more than once because as much as we love her for trying to be like the rest of us High St, Kate isn’t actually helping matters by buying mass produced clothes in lower budget shops.
One of Westwood’s points in her manifesto is ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last.’ Telling people not to buy cheap accessible clothes is like telling people not to live off fast food – its not going to happen, or not soon enough anyway. But there’s definitely a lot to be said for spending more money less often and buying clothes that aren’t going to fall apart at the seams after two wears.