It always brings out the cynic in me to see fashion take on politics, and Vivienne Westwood's continuing campaign to raise awareness for climate change is no exception.
Westwood is among the most politically outspoken designers working today: in 2007, she released her manifesto, Active Resistence to Propaganda (an insane dialogue between Alice, Pinocchio, Art Lover, Beautiful Slavegirl, Dryad of the Rainforest and others), she posts political musings regularly to her blog (the wonderfully titled "Get a Life") and was one of the few in the fashion industry to openly support the Occupy Movement in 2011.
Westwood's eclectic, singular designs and public persona make her a fitting champion of art and noncomformity, but more recently, the designer's also been positioning herself as an advocate for eco-consciousness. For the Spring 2013 Red Label show, the designer closed out the presentation by unfurling a banner which read "Climate Revolution" and taking her walk down the runway in a shirt bearing the same slogan and war paint on her face — an oversized frown painted with black on her mouth and a circle sketched round her eye. Westwood followed this appearance with a series of provocative statements, which included a call to stop shopping (meanwhile, the Vivienne Westwood brand online shop would be happy to take your order). "The fight is no longer between the classes or between rich and poor," she wrote in the copy accompanying the YouTube video of her Spring 2013 runway show, "but between the idiots and the eco-conscious." (In 2006, the Independant reported that Westwood's net worth was £10 million.) Last week, she pledged £1 million to the climate charity Cool Earth.
The designer did not back down when she showed her Men's line at the London Collections on Tuesday. Westwood styled her models with the same look she debuted at the Red Label Spring 2013 show in September — an expressive, clownish kind of warpaint, using broad black lines on pale faces and bright white paint for darker skin tones.
Together with posters printed with slogans advocating for eco-awareness more explicitly, the makeup was used to advance Westwood's message about climate change: makeup artist Pablo Rodriguez told the Telegraph that the look "represented an abstract image of a sad face of disapproval, so the models had a pointing down mouth and one sketchy round eye."
I have a soft spot for these kinds of ridiculous, messy makeup looks, and wouldn't mind living in a world where people drew out their feelings on their faces as a daily practice, but I can't say I'm satisfied with it is a political act.
As tFS writer Sarah Joynt pointed out in her review of Westwood's Spring 2013 Red Label show, the designer's messaging isn't matched with concrete steps toward sustainability: "The designer's finale preached a climate revolution, but what about the effects of the production? … If the collection had been entirely eco-friendly, her message would have made a much bigger impact. As it stands, the stunt seemed skin deep."
There's little to no information available about manufacturing practices or labor condition standards for the Vivienne Westwood brand and despite the designer's calls to buy less, waste less, she says all this while still fully participating in the established fashion industry, which is definitely not an innocent bystander to the culture of consumption. I understand that she's trying to use her status as an internationally recognized designer to raise awareness for something that she's obviously truly passionate about, but she's kidding herself if she thinks there's anything "revolutionary" about what she's doing, or that her actions, as they stand, are really going to effect any kind of radical change. You know, apart from a makeup for men beauty trend.
Images via IMAXtree, Getty