Vivienne Westwood uses fashion to save the planet
When did you first become conscious of the environment and our impact on it?
For a couple of decades I’ve been really upset about the problem of climate change, and I couldn’t bear the idea that we’re still cutting down the rainforests. I just couldn’t believe that the statistics were getting worse, not better. And then I read an interview with James Lovelock. He is a genius, the scientist who launched the “Gaia” Theory. Gaia is the name the Greeks gave to the earth goddess. James Lovelock thinks we are too late to stop climate change and that by the end of this century there will be only 1 billion people left. Fortunately!?The consensus among almost all scientists is that we have [until] 2020 to do something — eight more years. And it’s important for Americans to know that the [people who deny that climate change exists] are few, but they are well-funded and well-publicized.
Do you consider yourself an environmental activist??
A name I prefer is freedom fighter. I’ve got a voice because I’ve got a lot of credibility as a fashion designer. So I have been using my fashion for the last five or so years as a medium. I use slogans and graphics in lots of my designs. I also give my fashion shows titles related to saving the planet or climate change like, “Plus Five Degrees.” Plus five degrees is uninhabitable, it looks good on a T-shirt and promotes awareness.
What would you say to people who view your fight to save the planet and reduce consumption from the helm of a global fashion empire as contradictory?
My aim is quality not quantity. Timeless clothes that last, for people who make choices and don’t just consume. For people who can’t afford my clothes, I hope to provide a standard of good design — which will help them to choose clothes that will suit them.
What are some changes that you’ve made in your own life to live in a more sustainable, ecologically minded way?
I ride a bicycle for convenience and I’m a person who doesn’t like to waste things. I never waste food, for example. I also don’t eat meat. I’m a very privileged person living in this part of the world so I can make choices, and my preferred food really is just fruit and vegetables. You don’t need other food. This is optimum health. Once you get into it, nothing else tastes so good.
Tips for living sustainably
Buy less “Buy less, choose well and make it last. I really do think that people should exercise choice and not just consume without thought — sucking up stuff all the time, one thing after another.”
Go to art galleries “The art lover is not consuming. He invests in the present world by engaging with the genius of the past. ‘You get out what you put in’ is my motto.”
Read “The best fashion accessory is a book.”
Prepare your own food “Buying and preparing your own food is to engage with the world. It gives you a sense of reality.”
D.I.Y. “Wear a piece of beautiful fabric, borrow stuff from your friends and style it in with your own clothes.”