By  on September 14, 2006

Vivienne Westwood rarely makes a public appearance in the U.S., much less in a major department store — "Tell me why I should?" she asked — yet on Tuesday, Macy's Herald Square was able to snare her. The occasion was the launch of Westwood's new capsule collection for Nine West.

"I don't look at fashion magazines and don't watch television," she told the crowd of 100-plus people. "I don't know what other designers are doing. But the human race has never looked more ugly than they do today."

The reason, she explained, was that too many people conform to a look based on low-priced clothes of little imagination and poor quality.

She recalled an incident at one of her recent men's wear shows, when a reporter asked what men should be wearing. Westwood's response? "Give it a rest," she recalled, indicating that some men would be better off saving for a season or two to make a quality purchase rather than buying "terrible" clothes every season. "It's very depressing," she said.

She elaborated on her displeasure with current dress codes after the Q&A. "Nobody has any sense of personality," she said. "To think that you don't need clothes to express personality....We have clothes to help you. Men usually do better than women, because they have the standard of the Savile Row suit. Men always look nice. Women can look terrible."

Asked what she thought of department stores, and Macy's in particular, Westwood seemed to dodge the question gracefully. "I don't look around very much," she said. "I just walk in and go. I am afraid I tend not to check out where I am. I am in my own head."

When the queen of tweaked tartans was asked what she found most inspiring about America, the designer struck a political note.

"A long time ago, I thought it was exciting, but American foreign policy has taken away any glamour the American lifestyle once had for me," she said. "I am very unpatriotic, though. I don't support England either."

Westwood's collection for Nine West includes quirky interpretations of tartans, from boots to cardigans, at suggested retails ranging from $225 to $500. It is being selectively distributed and will be available at Nine West's top 20 doors and Macy's top 40 doors, as well as through and her four-day stay, she was planning to visit her two favorite museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its Chinese art, and the Frick Collection. During her New York trip, Westwood also hosted a Grand Classics Film series screening of "Incident at Oglala," Michael Apted's 1992 documentary on imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier, whom many believe to be innocent and whose case Westwood has made one of her causes. "Recently, I got very involved in human rights," she said. "You can't have a civilization if you don't have justice before the law."

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