Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist review: Following its Sundance 2018 debut, British audiences get the change to peek into the life and career of one of its fashion greats.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist by Paul Heath.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist review
Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist review

Getting a release rather promptly following its international debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival back in January is this engaging look into the life of punk style icon, fashion legend, and environmental activist Vivienne Westwood. The three words contained in the title obviously allude to what to expect, but they also point to the simple three-part structure of Lorna Tucker’s impressive fly-on-the-wall look into the life and career of one of the fashion world’s most renowned anticonformists.

Shipping to these shores via docu-distributors Dogwoof, whose stamp often signals the high quality of the production on offer, the tight, 79-minute film kicks off with Westwood looking rather uncomfortably down into Tucker’s camera – ‘it’s so boring,’ she utters when prompted to talk about key times in her life. We track back after she realises the necessity to recall her colourful past, touching upon humble beginnings, to her time making clothes in Malcolm McLaren’s Chelsea boutique down on the King’s Road, through to her rise in popularity and success at the very top of the industry.

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Tucker’s film employs the use of archive film, complimented with well-shot talking-head interviews from all key figures working in Westwood’s global empire – including her son, second husband and key collaborator Andreas Kronthaler – as well as fly-on-the-wall footage of the inner workings of her massive company which still, to this day, remains completely independent and free of corporate interference. We’re reminded that this is key to Westwood’s investment, the emphasis not as much on the money and expansion, but on her insistence on still having her personal stamp on everything from the factories to the cat-walks and the shop-floor.

The documentary is involving from the off, a very rags-to-riches tale coupled with a unique, stripped back, intimate portrait of a style icon not seen in anything that has come before.

Westwood comes across as bold and brash, but also as a confident person, still focused on developing her brand with that unique personal touch – and Tucker captures the essence of the person and that brand perfectly.

An absolute must for fashionistas, of course, but also thoroughly worth checking out for those looking for a chance to look back at the anarchic past of a Britain long gone, but with also at a subject clinging on to her own personal values in a world constantly shifting and one who is not afraid to continue to put her fingers up at the establishment.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist review by Paul Heath, March 2018.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is currently playing at the Sydney Film Festival.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist