By  on September 13, 1994

NEW YORK -- The notoriously noncommercial Vivienne Westwood is on the stump.

The radical British designer is in town this week for an appearance at Bergdorf Goodman tonight and -- believe it or not -- a trunk show Wednesday morning.

But she will not spend the rest of her time in New York strolling Mercer Street soaking up The Scene. The woman once known as the mother of the punk movement, the woman who co-wrote the punk anthem "Who Killed Bambi?" and ran a shop called Sex on London's King's Road, will spend her time in New York selling her clothes and quietly visiting a few museums.

"I'll go back to the Frick, definitely, and to the Metropolitan, to look closely at the 17th-century paintings," she said. "I also might look at some clothes. I've been invited to go through the Madame Grès show."

She'd like to get inside some couture clothes, particularly a Charles Worth.

"There's real anarchy in those garments," she said. "No, you'd better not say anarchy. People get nervous when they hear that word. They think it means chaos."

On her first morning in New York, Westwood sat at a table at the Carlyle Hotel lighting Gauloises and adjusting her large plaid wrap.

The designer said she's seeing a resurgence of interest in quality over quantity. And that fits right in with her work ethic, which is surprisingly traditional.

"We've been in a period of democratic envy, where people think it's bad to spend money on clothes," said Westwood. With her soft voice, white hair and porcelain skin, the 53-year-old designer seems more like a grandmother than a radical designer -- if one ignores the bright red hose and the plaid stiletto platform ankle-wrap shoes.

"I think, I hope, people are starting to look at that differently now," she explains. "We can't go on consuming the way we did. You can't go on exploiting the world in terms of quantity, so you have to do it in terms of quality."

While Westwood's image is of a rebel known for outrageous and outlandish clothes inspired by anything from pirates to prostitutes, she's more concerned with cut, tailoring and fabric quality. Her fans might remember the mini-crini, the impossible stiletto platforms and this season's fur G-string, but the designer talks about draping, patterns and "the great age" of couture. And while her clothes might make people laugh, Westwood is quite serious.

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