Vivienne Westwood on Childhood:
‘The first thing you should really know about me is that I was born in the Second World War. Rationing. All of that. I didn’t have a banana until I was seven. Didn’t like it when I did. Things were scarce. And everybody was knitting. You can even find patterns for knitted wedding dresses. Hours and hours spent knitting. And we did things like collecting little nutshells and painting them and making little sprays of flowers. It was all about “Do It Yourself ”.’

‘I’m a fashion designer and I’m what is known as an activist. And I suppose there were signs of that from an early age.’

‘There are some consolations to being older – and to being thought of as eccentric in the first place… I look back now and I hardly recognize myself, or I recognize just this tiny piece of what I have become and I think, “You silly, silly little girl, how could you be so naive?” But then again, of course, naive gets you places too, and it gets you hungry to learn. That’s what I’d say to the girl in that photograph, actually: don’t be afraid. Keep reading. Say it like it is. And then think for yourself.’

RELATED STORY: Ian Kelly Discusses Vivienne Westwood Biography >>

On Malcolm McLaren:
‘When I met Malcolm and I fell in love, I thought he was beautiful and I still do. I still treasure the experience of Malcolm. A world without Malcolm would have been like a world without Brazil . . . he was charismatic, talented; I really liked him. And even though he was crazy I knew I wanted to find out more about him.‘

‘There was no punk before me and Malcolm. And the other thing you should know about punk too: it was a total blast.’

‘Punk was everything to me and Malcolm. I don’t speak about it now as much as people seem to think I should, but it’s not because I’m ashamed or think it’s passé or anything. I am more interested in what I am doing now, but what I need to explain is this: what I am doing now, it still is punk – it’s still about shouting about injustice and making people think, even if it’s uncomfortable. I’ll always be a punk in that sense.’

On The Sex Pistols and Punk:
‘They really did mean it, you know, The Sex Pistols, and I loved the lyrics – not just the ones that I wrote, although I love writing lyrics [Vivienne has joint credit for some of The Sex Pistols’ songs] and I’m good at it. They were brilliant, The Sex Pistols. I met someone the other day, quite old, but I knew he’d been a punk before he told me. Give me a punk and I’ll show you the man.‘

‘Maybe punk came in part from New York, but the punk “look” evolved in our shop at 430 King’s Road. Malcolm and I changed the names and decor of the shop to suit the clothes as our ideas evolved. But punk didn’t mean anything more than that at first. I did not see myself as a fashion designer but as someone who wished to confront the rotten status quo through the way I dressed and dressed others. Eventually this sequence of ideas culminated in punk. The way I thought about “punk” politics was this: at the time, we were just becoming aware of these terrible politicians torturing people – I’m thinking of Pinochet, for instance. I mean, the world is appalling. It’s cruel and corrupt and dangerous and there are awful people running the world. And so, first of all, punk was about contempt. I don’t know whether that’s a strong enough word for it, really. Contempt for the older generation because they hadn’t tried to do anything. The idea was that kids would try to put a spoke in the wheel of this terrible killing machine.’

On Fashion:
‘The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word “conformity”. Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element. So we began in our shop “Let It Rock” with a look from the fifties. The walls were covered with pages torn out of fifties pin-up porno magazines – these ravaged or shipwrecked temptresses. The fifties also inspired me to have a crew cut. My hair was fine so I dyed it blond [sic] to make it more coarse so it would stick up. Then I took pleasure in letting it grow longer but still sticking up, and this hairstyle caught on. People had never seen this before.’

Excerpt from “Vivienne Westwood” by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly. Copyright (c) 2014 and reprinted by permission of Picador.

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