Wednesday, 26 September: The collection was hanging in the Paris showroom. The clothes looked lovely and we put them in the running order. Girls were still arriving for the casting. Some evening dresses still to come from London. Shoes coming tomorrow.
Thursday, 27 September: Day off. Wrote draft of letter, very important – the one I promised to The Economist editor, John Micklethwait. Then I went to the showroom by 4 pm to advise on the hair and make-up. I don’t usually know, but this time I had an idea. For the hair use three ideas, all tribal: one was taken from the young male Masai but instead of the locks all swept to the back and hanging, leave the hair combed and greasy looking like a gypsy or rocker, masculine and maybe with a quiff; another was frizz, one or two of the frizzes were dressed like Marie-Antoinette; the third look was blond wigs still with the comb left in the hair – I had seen this on men from an African tribe. Most of the girls have long hair but we left the ones with shaved heads. And, of course, we had our alien hats.
The make-up idea was white circular patches in the eye socket, not too strong but so that it looked disconcerting and strange, and a heart shaded around the face. I was worried that Val, our make-up artist, would be frustrated to repeat alien clones and sure enough on the day she developed the idea and the girls were individual in their make-up but it was much better and it did look tribal and alien.
Friday, 28 September: All day working on the show. Girls still arriving for casting and fittings, checking the outfits, e.g. we might substitute a pair of tailored knickers for a big skirt, changing the running order. Arrived home at 3 am, slept and left at 6 am, the day of the show.
Saturday, 29 September: Luckily, the show was at 4 pm because we weren’t happy yet with the run, but in the end we did our best – trying to include all the ideas. The ideal is to concentrate the collection and have no more than 50 outfits. I wrote the press release. We went home and changed and arrived at the Residence by 1.30 where the British Ambassador, Sir Peter Ricketts, and his wife welcomed us.
In 1814, the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), newly appointed British Ambassador to France, looked for a suitable house in which to take up residence. With Emperor Napoleon exiled to Elba, and his family fleeing France, Wellington was able to buy the vacant hotel de Charost with all its contents from Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Borghese, for 861,500 francs. The hotel de Charost thus became the first embassy building purchased abroad by a British government.
We went to say hello to everybody helping. The girls were still arriving and my favourite memory at this point was a group of these young Black models talking and laughing between doing cartwheels on the grass before going to get their hair and make-up done. Andreas went to finish the show, allocating jewellery, trying the outfits on again. I talked with the Ambassador and did interviews and we watched the run through, checking the make-up under the lighting. The lighting was done by Toni, who comes from Andreas’ village. He did a super job and the girls walked through splendid rooms. I think we were invited to the Ambassador’s Residence as part of the government’s “GREAT Campaign”.
Soon after the show I did an interview with Vicki Woods and because I was tired I just
talked – about anything she asked me. Vicki’s well-known as a serious writer. She told me, “I try to tell what people are like.” Georgia May was there at the show wearing the Palladium jewellery. We went straight to the after-show party they had arranged. At dinner, I talked to Trish, a kind, powerful woman who only does good things. She is the wife of Terry Jones, founder/editor in chief of i-D magazine. Some of the girls from the show came, especially one of my favourites, Marta Ortis, who’s just left school and did her thesis on the rainforest. Her friend, who also did the show and lives in Paris with her boyfriend, said it’s difficult to make money there: agency 20%, tax 50%, 30% for her. Elegant, friendly party. Andreas talked with Georgia May and her friend. Home before midnight.
Sunday, 30 September: A lovely day at home, read “La Conference des Oiseaux” a play by Jean-Claude Carriere adapted from the great 12th century poem by Farid Udin Attar. It was performed in France by Peter Brooks’ company and must have been visually marvellous – they used bird masks from Bali. The birds have interesting characters and they meet all kinds of people on their way to discover their King (I got the idea to do my Manifesto as a journey from this play). They always talk in the most everyday expressions (though the text is poetic) and it’s good for my French. I read French but I don’t have much chance to speak it.
Why else do I love the book? Because it illustrates through little anecdotes and stories and indeed by the whole journey what people in Mediaeval or more mystical times thought about God and the Universe. In their journey to the King – really God – they finally come into his presence, which is a mirror of themselves. It is quite alchemical. People think reading – and indeed all art – is worthwhile only if it is relevant to today. I think it’s very relevant to know what people did think, especially when it’s different. This is what gives you a perspective on your own life. And this perspective is what I consider to be culture.
I don’t believe in any grand plan but it is a fact of experience that we have a spiritual dimension to our make-up
I had an appointment at 6 pm in our showroom where I first watched the video from the show. For the first time, ever, I feel I want to start on the next collection. I met Johann, one of the main movers of “CliMates” . We brought ourselves up to date with each other’s activities and, of course, they are and should be a major contingent of Climate Revolution. He is a sweetheart and very serious.
Monday, 1 October: In Paris, we stay with my friend Andy Stutz (we use his silks in our grand dresses). The flat is opposite the river to the Eiffel Tower which we always see from his balcony. But now we had to move because he was leaving that day and a friend he shares the flat with was coming. We had a room at the Crillon and a driver who picked us up for the move (these things are often sponsored during show week) and then we drove to Fontainebleau, in the country outside of Paris. The style of the castle reminds you of “The Three Musketeers.” Most interesting was whatever remained from the time of Francis I, but the place was ransacked by the revolutionaries and so other furnishings were from a later period. We really enjoyed the beautiful weather in this small French town and came back in time to go to the Saint Laurent show.
We said goodbye to our driver, also called Johann. I liked him so much. He had been with us all the time and once he was late so we left without him. He was so beautifully sorry, so dignified and genuinely polite that my heart went out to him. Empathy: I noticed this as a child in my school; a girl of about seven, Audrey got this boy into trouble and after they fell in love.
We went to the Saint Laurent show wearing our t-shirts, me in CLIMATE REVOLUTION and Andreas with his “I am Julian Assange” and we sat next to Kate Moss. Kate wants to meet again the next day for breakfast. She gets up early – 6 am.
Tuesday, 2 October: We met Kate and Jamie Hince for lunch with also some of their friends. I tell her where we’re at with the Climate Revolution. She’s really excited and involved. Jamie has booked himself onto the Siberian Express, something he’s always wanted to do. He’ll work on his next songs. I said, “Why don’t you write a diary that week and write the things that interest you as you go along – past and present. You can include the diary in your next album and the songs will come. You won’t be writing cold.”
After, we go to the showroom and Kate tries things on. This girl really has got style. Such an intimate rapport between the clothes and her body, she really knows how to use it and she has so much energy. Talking. Never tired. It’s good for Andreas and me to see how the clothes fit on a woman who really understands clothes, – we will adjust, make one or two changes. Jamie says, “My idea of the perfect strip show is women getting dressed.”
Kate and Jamie were on the way to the McQueen show. On the way, we stop off to see a small collection of underwear of our friend Yasmine Eslami (Yasmine helped with styling both the Red Label and Gold Label shows). Fashion people are there. Kate’s so pleased to see them. All friends, throwing her arms around them. Kate tried on the underwear and bought a set. She kept the bra on and thought her vest looked better. She’s wearing a little camouflage army jacket – a bit too small – which she won on a shooting range. Andreas says to me, “What a lovely little thing, so kind, running around.”
They dropped us off and we went to the bar. Andreas hardly drinks but he’d had some wine and we carried on, joined by our friend Sabina – a fashion stylist – and her boyfriend, Michael, who deals in second hand clothes and supplies them to designers to copy. He was thoughtful and seemed clever. One thing I remember which I don’t agree with was when he said that now that we have popular culture all the interesting things come from there, like pop music. With this he seemed to imply that we don’t need to listen to “old” music anymore.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Henry Ford said, “History is bunk.” I guess Michael is a 20th century man: nothing interesting happened before.
Wednesday, 3 October:
We leave Paris by train for Italy. We have an appointment in Como. The reason we stayed in Paris two extra days was it wasn’t worth travelling home, being in Paris we were on the way to travel by train, which I much prefer to flying. We went down to Lyon and across the Alps (spectacular!) to Milan. Unfortunately, at the border the police took off two young men who were illegal immigrants. Poor people. Arrived at Milan, we drive to Como.
Como is so well-known for its beauty. The lake, surrounded and protected by mountains, has attracted the rich who, since the Renaissance, have built their villas here. We stayed in the Villa d’Este, considered to be the best hotel in the world. I had been here once before for the silk fabric fair. Silk is important here.
Why were we here? We weren’t exactly sure. We had been invited by Morris, the owner fo the company Montero which produces the scarves we design and a rose had been named after me. It was most important to him that we should come – therefore, we came.
Thursday, 4 October: We took a trip on the lake and disembarked at one of the small towns where we lunched and looked around Como when we returned. Then at 7 pm we went to the opening of the “event” – still a mystery – where I had time to talk with Angela Missoni who lives on the Como shore and the Missoni factory is near. Rosita Missoni, Angela’s mother, was very nice to me years ago when I needed some help and I was interested to hear about the family who I had stayed with all those years ago.
Then we went from this modern building to where a concert was to take place. This was in the Villa Erba, the home of the Visconti. Luchino Visconti was one of the great, great filmmakers and, as Andreas said, being born into such a family, style and luxury, no wonder he had such solidity, such standards: “It didn’t come from nowhere, did it?” The villa was immaculate in its grandeur. It was lit up in the near distance as we approached through the green shapes of the garden. The concert was jazz interspersed with Morris thanking all the people from his staff. I liked the concert. I’ve never really got anything out of jazz but I liked this, probably more because I liked the players. They were so sweet and sympathetic and dedicated and talented – they played one or two home-made instruments and did scats of a guttural sound and use of the mic – but it really is true that a traditional quartet playing Mozart or Debussy is so much more profound and elevating.
Friday, 5 October: Finished my letter to economists – it’s to be an open letter. A kind lady member of the hotel staff showed us around the hotel and told us some of the history. Arrived at the “event” at 3.00, On the way, I asked our two young people from our PR in Milan to explain what it was. The boy said nothing; the girl explained to me three times but I still didn’t understand.
Andreas: “Vivienne, I have tried to get an answer from our Italian office for three weeks; they can’t tell you because they don’t know. I know because I asked our driver and he explained it to me in one sentence. This is a horticultural fair – from potatoes to orchids to garden furniture. People from all around Italy come to show and sell what they do and this year the prize winning rose is dedicated to you, Vivienne Westwood, in your honour. It is the brainchild of Morris who loves gardens and this is its fourth year.”
When I accepted the rose, I talked about climate change in my thanks. I gave the name of the blog, Vivienne, Get a Life and I mentioned the most important point to get over: We can work towards a sound economy only when we include the cause of our economic problems which is climate change.
Here is the rose. I really do love it. It has a faint but special spicy smell. Something about the way the petals curl back when the flowers open and the form changes in its different stages and also the salmon colour changes from a more yellow to a more pink hue. It grows all summer long.
About fairs, of course they are not so important today when goods are transported all over the world. (Do you know that our word “bank” comes from the word for the table or counter of a money-changer? French: banque; Italian: banca; English equivalent: bench. You could travel with a letter in the form of a hand-written cheque and pick up the money at the fair where the money-changer was expecting you.) do kids born in cities not make the connection between a motor show and a flower show or the idea of a country fair?
Modern educators try not to impose knowledge on children. They start from what will interest the children and they consider the past as too remote. They are cutting them off from tradition, leaving them rootless in knowledge. A long time ago in Vienna, in the school where I met Andreas, the rector did not like me teaching fashion history. He was an architect. He told me that in teaching architecture they whipped through the whole of historic buildings in one month and from then on dealt only with the 20th century.
Before we left, Andreas told me off, “Vivienne, you want to explain the world but you haven’t understood the magnificence of this hotel. There is nothing like it in the world. It was built in the Renaissance and has been maintained in peak condition ever since. Nothing is wasted. Look at these garden chairs – they were bought in the 50’s and every year at the end of the Season they are cleaned and repaired – if necessary repainted – they just unscrew the brass knobs and paint them. Can you imagine any other hotel doing that? Through the different trends of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – they’d just throw them out and get new ones. This is your ecology, this hotel!”