Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist




The world of Dame Vivienne Westwood surveyed in a standard biopic.

Westwood Punk, Icon, Activist


It’s not difficult to think of documentaries in which the person featured proved so compelling that the film’s appeal became far wider than might have been expected. A prime example of this is Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011), a joy even for those who have never opened the pages of Vogue because Vreeland herself was so engagingly extraordinary. This can even happen when you have a magnetic figure within a wider canvas: The September Issue (2009) featured Vogue even more prominently yet the spotlight was stolen not by its editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, but by the wonderfully memorable Grace Coddington. Much more recently we had The Ice King, a portrait of the gay skater John Curry which had a story to tell that was so interesting that it was unnecessary for a viewer to be fascinated by skating in order for the film to be both absorbing and rewarding.


Now we have Lorna Tucker’s documentary about Vivienne Westwood but, if Dame Vivienne can be an idiosyncratic presence (she is seen on camera at the outset implying that talking about various aspects of her life will be boring), she lacks what it would take to make this film truly worthwhile for those with a limited interest in her career. According to recent press reports, she has protested that the film does not focus sufficiently on her activism even though it contains footage about her involvement with Greenpeace and her wider environmental concerns. It is the case that her long support for CND is not featured but in any case she is best known for being a key figure in the rebellious Punk movement born at the end of the 1960s and for her subsequent long career as a fashion designer with, it is said, some 120 shops world-wide. Consequently, it seems reasonable that Tucker’s film should concentrate primarily on those areas.


What we get blends fresh recent footage of Dame Vivienne at work intercut with a more or less chronological account of her life as recalled by her and illustrated by film clips from earlier times. Her partnership with Malcolm McLaren is commented on, but detail is lacking when, later on, it appears that he had the power to frustrate contracts that she wished to enter into in Italy. The film is also vague about the changing aims in her designs: we see her initially bringing punk into play in the field of fashion but later hear of a new emphasis on colour - but that doesn’t mean that recent models don’t retain elements derived from punk. What is clearer is the extent to which her second husband, the Austrian Andreas Kronthaler whom she married in 1992 having met him when he was a fashion student, is also her active partner in her design work. There is stress on her company being more of a family-style concern when compared to other fashion corporations but, if some tensions do emerge, the conflict between her son Ben and her CEO Carlo D’Amario is mentioned only briefly. Ultimately, then, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist will play best to audiences readily drawn to documentary movies about the world of fashion.




Featuring  Vivienne Westwood, Andreas Kronthaler, Ben Westwood, Carlo D'Amario, Christopher Di Pietro, Claire Wilcox, Peppe Lorefice, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christina Hendricks, Carine Roitfeld.


Dir Lorna Tucker, Pro Eleanor Emptage, Shrine Best, Nicole Stott and John Battsek, Ph Sam Brown and James Moriarty, Ed Paul Carlin, Music Dan Jones.


Finished Films/Dogwoof & Tdog/Passion Pictures-Dogwoof.
83 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 23 March 2017. Cert. 15.