Monday, 21 November 2011

Let the 99% wear Westwood.

Photo captures authors best bits from Bexhill Charity shops collection 2010

"Of course, they will say, 'What is she doing, she's selling a designer collection, how can she be against consumption?' Well, you have to consume things, of course, you have to live, you have to eat. And I'm not saying don't go to the discotheque, they can do that. I'm just saying go less, do other things." She sighs. "It's so much to tackle."
Vivianne Westwood

I love Vivianne Westwood. For her tangerine tresses, her gentle Derbyshire accent and my corset collection,all inspired by her cleavage uplifting designs. She is majestic, ethereal , putting two fingers up to a society that worships at the altar of youth, at seventy she is still radical, still cool. She creates fantasy and beauty, garments and looks that I have copied but never owned. She was still creative after conception and I doff my feathered cap to her simply for that. But when she talks politics I am bemused, either she doesn't explain herself very well or she is as confused as I am.

Politically , I can't relate to a lot of what's going on around me at the moment. It is as though words and deeds are strangers to each other. Questions and answers are no longer bedfellows. The world is full of soundbites statements and blame. Celebrities preaching to the masses from their podiums of hypocrisy like latter day Marie Antionettes. I cant even bear listening to politicians. Everyone is pointing the finger at someone else.

Take fashion for example. The root of global warming and human expolitation is often attributed to a consumer demand for fashion novelty and cheap clothes. Blame the poor for shopping at Primark they cry from their window seat in first class as they looki down on their third home twinkling down below. Vivianne Westwood believes that we should buy less but better, choose well and save up for quality garments . So do I , but when a designer skirt costs my wardrobe budget for the year , we are living on different planets. I need boots, socks, knickers , jumpers... you get the yarn i'm spinning.

We are led to believe that buying quality is buying ethically, the research I have done says otherwise. The high street stores are cut from the same cloth , price buys brand not ethical guarantees. Designers are no better and some sources rate famous politically outspoken designers as shamefully poorly on ethical and environmental standards. Agencies that support and champion textiles workers suggest that the answer is not to boycott large companies but to lobby them for better working conditions and environmental practices. Setting up small independent outlets does nothing to address the welfare of thousands of textile workers around the world. I'm confused, Vivienne is right ,it's so much to tackle.

When it comes down to it ,we are all hypocrites. Most people do not purposely or directly harm those less fortunate, but we are all mixed up together,in a system that does. Westwood flies to China, but she doesn't use a washing machine. I have shopped in Primark but have never driven a car and haven't done a long haul flight for years. We all do our bit to save and destroy our planet and society. Very few of us are innocent , so perhaps its time to stop pointing the finger at' each other and towards workable solutions. Preaching doesn't win many converts these days. I love drama, fine speeches and spectacle as a form of protest, but I also like realism, I also want to listen to the unsung heros who understand the system and work to change it from within. People who do not tar the general population as television drugged zombies too stupid to see the truth. The truth is in their pay packets or lack of it. I think we understand what's going on, we just don't know what to do about it.

I'm not a Marxist or an ist of any kind, but we can still learn a lot from good old Karl. In my opinion the solutions to the material ills of the world lie in the simple slogan 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs)' That we should contribute what we are physically and materially able to, that we should not take more than we need. Vivianne uses her celebrity and artistry to highlight the cause, this is her ability. What the hell am I going to do? If I was Viv i'd set up a company that is ethical from root to tip. That supplies the goods people need and can afford . I can get my fashion fix from charity shops and car boot sales but when the children desperately need a vital item in a specific size at the right price, the high street meets the demand. Unfortunately I don't have the money or expertise to set this up but in the meantime I can clean up my own act a little by doing the following.

1. Use a cobbler . It may cost £7 but it's still cheaper than new shoes.
2. Research the ethical practices of companies I use and let them know if I think they stink. I can send letters and emails from my humble abode.
3. Fly the charity shop flag-(unless they are 5ft and live in Lewes-keep away from my patch!)
4. Save up my £4 a week smoking money and save up for some shoes by Melissa. This may be regularly plundered to pay the gas.
5. Get a milkman. Those plastic bottles mounting up are my biggest shame.This may be more expensive. I may have to plunder the shoe fund yet again.

"I think all we can hope for is public opinion, that's the only thing that will save us.' Vivienne Westwood at OLSE.

If the occupy protests, green movements and anti capitalists want public opinion on their side they need to credit the working class with some intellegence. Need to respect their experiences and why they make the choices they make. A lot of people are new to political thought and protest and the occupations are radical, they take a while to get your head around. Just because many people can't see how it will work does not mean that they are bigots. I desperatley hope that the message will not be lost by medium of expression. 99% of us are angry at the same people about the same thing. I might nip over to Brighton and talk to people occupying there, change is afoot and we all need our voices in the mix.

If Vivianne turns up I shall tell her about my idea you never know, anything is possible in these times. I could be dressing my children in Red capes made from recycled sacks embossed with the golden orb of the queen of fashion. Now wouldn't that be fabulous!

For ethical shoes -Vegan, ethical and sexy-Yes Please Father Christmas

For great small businesses who exploit only themselves take a peek at Employing women in the comfort of their own homes

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