What We Can Learn from Vivienne Westwood’s Playing Cards

September 21, 2018



Marrying the Taoist elements with organised chaos, Vivienne Westwood has created playing cards for us to learn from in her spring/summer ready-to-wear collection 2019: to ‘get us out of this environmental mess, we must have ‘culture instead of consumption’. The collection comes in the form of a digital lookbook, reducing the designer's carbon footprint, in line with her enduring belief that we should all ‘buy less’.  





Do it yourself

From the playing cards, Westwood encourages people to DIY, as the cast for the digital lookbook were chosen to be featured for the looks they put together themselves. A trend of this collection is idiosyncrasy, for a unique perspective and decentralising power. Giving the cast the ability to choose their own outfits redistributes control by giving them a voice, not solely up to the designer. With bold and eclectic looks, flamboyant colours are draped in politically charged language, with words like ‘power’ and ‘consumption’, on multi-layered ensembles: batwing dresses, and trousers in the same graphic print for a vibrant and punk effect. This 'Do It Yourself' mentality encourages people to ‘get a better life’ as Vivienne mentions in the SS19 film, not for her, but for us, for you. And to achieve this, we cannot rely on the politicians who shape our lives as they are ‘criminals’ according to Westwood in the film. 



Culture, not consumption
Tied in with the DIY mentality, we must consume less. We must prevent further ‘environmental mess’ by focusing on the culture we create and not the consumption we do. If we DIY our outfits, repurpose and rework clothes we can buy less. If we create digital lookbooks, we can reduce carbon footprints. Why not create a culture of a digital fashion week? Vivienne Westwood’s emphasis on culture stems from her interest in Taoism and Chinese art, with Taoist elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood, Chinese peony and dragon print featuring in the collection throughout.

Card motifs pop up on large prayer flags, draped over the cast and set in a sandwich board style for t-shirts and little kilts that are hand-painted - a nod to traditional art practices. Recognising tradition and methods connect to the Tao school of thought which focuses on naturalness, simplicity, compassion and humility. These Tao inspired pieces in the collection read like ancient scripture, Westwood successfully amalgamates tradition and the past, with digitisation and revolution.



Revolution is organised chaos 
The spring/summer 19 ready-to-wear collection that is presented is a bold and eclectic vision, one we expect from Vivienne Westwood, in which she features and narrates the film. It is organised chaos: a person in a gorilla costume chasing a model, a set of old televisions and wires and dynamic wind machines. To take from this, revolution is chaos, and the models fight back, with the gorilla on the floor in the end and power stances from model Anthon Raimund.

A trend Westwood often features in collections is camouflage print, and that is ‘because we are fighting right now to save the world, and punks love a fight’. With the films spirited edge and individuality, the cast of all genders wearing clothes of all genders, subvert strict designer binaries - Westwood challenges not only her audience to think politically but also fashion as space and entity. ‘Free market monopoly capitalism is our enemy’, Westwood narrates, encouraging audiences to think about our consumption habits and recognise the system within which we consume. To combat this, Vivienne Westwood created a world of organised chaos: one of, dynamism, madness and seemingly arbitrary events to convey the world of ‘environmental mess’ that Westwood, and many others, see in our society.



Buy less, dress up
‘Consumption is the enemy to culture’. Westwood, in her collection and the film, encourages us to ‘switch to green energy’ for the sake of the environment.  With love for knitwear, graphics and DIY, Westwood carries this Buy less, Dress up mentality into her collection, reworking items such as a vest, to wear with arm warmers and thick long socks - something she hopes we will all do. 


From Vivienne Westwood’s playing cards, we can see the way in which Westwood uses fashion a tool for political change and the commitment to this - through reducing the companies carbon footprint in her digital look-book, which could possibly reduce her reach as a designer with this collection by avoiding the runway. But for the sake of the environment, this is detrimental. The most important thing to take away from this digital, eclectic, collection is to Buy Less and Dress Up. 









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