Although Vivienne Westwood’s emergence within the punk aesthetic was brief, her use of deconstructionist techniques throughout her fashion career is irrefutably of avant-garde ideals. In particular Westwood’s method of shocking or offensive symbols on garments and her DIY approach to fashion by taking something apart and reconstructing it to get a completely different outcome. Westwood strives to make known the way in which a garment takes its form by exposing seams and displaying fabric inside out, unfinished or deteriorating. These methods are very much aligned to avant-garde techniques whereby the end result is not to create something that is practical, but something that is unique and individualised to the designer’s artistic intent. [ i ]
If we look at Westwood’s earlier work, her garments feature symbols such as the swastika and the cross upside down, tears and rips throughout the garments that sometimes are held back together with safety pins.[ ii ] Another popular method associated with the idea of DIY garments was the use of creating a collage effect where the British flag would often be torn up and the Queen’s face would be covered over with an anti-monarchy slogan slapped across it. Although we associate these garments with subcultural fashion and the youth movement, Westwood very early on displays this need to express her individual artistic flare, placing importance on the subject matter, rather than the practicality of the garment.
Further on in Westwood’s career we see her movement towards high end fashion where her deconstructionist methods are still intrinsic to the way in which she constructs her garments. Although the slogans are gone and we no longer see images of the Queen, there is still this sense of attitude about Westwood’s garments that depict avant-garde fashion so precisely. Perhaps it is no longer about the words accompanying the garments that make them so powerful but rather the underlining attitude that is so apparent in every Westwood design.
[ i ] Avant-garde in fashion. What is it? 2014, viewed 24 August 2014, <http://www.avantgardemagazine.com/avant-garde-in-fashion-what-is-it.php
[ ii ] Vivienne Westwood and the postmodern legacy of punk style 2014, viewed 24 August 2014, <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vivw/hd_vivw.htm>