Vivienne Westwood is a fashion name I have seen regularly on the Japanese fashion blogs I occasionally browse. She is a staple of high quality, distinctive pieces that flourish within the Japanese Fashion community to which I personally hold dear and stem personal stylistic choices off of. As someone who admittedly doesn’t regularly seek out the historical roots of certain favored brands, a familiar name among the unfamiliarity of punk rock in the United Kingdom curiously stuck out to me. Vivienne Westwood ran a store named “Sex” which sold much of the Sex Pistol’s merchandise, and directly created certain popular works that are actively associated with the band. Because Punk is an influential force beyond just music, the aspect of fashion directly tied to the anti-establishment of Punk created a counter culture means for production of Fashion. Limited runs, unprecedented stylistic choices, and a somewhat unitary vision of what it stylistically means to be punk.
The British Library housed some of Vivienne Westwood’s designs for the movement which largely led to her success in the industry. In her shop “Sex” the use of sado-masochistic gear, and shockingly grotesque appearances of free sexual prowess brought an unconventional take on fashion norms during the 70s as an article from the Victoria and Albert museum explains. After garnering success they added the line of “Seditionaries” which affiliated with the Sex Pistols placed “Sex” at the forefront of the punk “industry”. An article the Met by Shannon Price awards goes so far as to award her with the title of “Mother of Punk”, but the British Museum only placed her as a means to Sex Pistol’s clothing line for fashion in the chronology of Punk.
Juxtaposed, Japanese culture is just about the opposite of Punk. It is very rooted in its values and cultures. Those who defect do so drastically. As someone who has visited Japan’s areas where Fashion reigns over culture, I find that Harajuku culture is often played up to be something directly comparable to Punk. “Punk” defection is simply not large in the modern age when compared to more trendy, fashionable, culturally rooted themes of modesty and “mottainai” (the desire for lack of waste physically and socially) within Japanese society. The Tokyo Fashion blog displays girls in Vivienne Westwood bags in traditional Japanese dress, or Vivienne Westwood clothing juxtaposed with Tabi socks and sandals. The cultural clash of distinctly Japanese fashion that has traditional values combined with the anti-establishment punk brand of Vivienne Westwood concocts itself as a quiet, subtle, revolt with the marriage of opposing ideals. Contrarily, there are also connoisseurs of the Westwood Brand that value the punk roots that the exhibit was rooted in. Many Fashion icons in the modern age also continue to display sado-masochistic gear, the black leather, chained movement that Vivienne Westwood pioneered. This is more in line with the stereotypical vision of Harajuku Fashion that global culture coins as “Japanese Fashion”.
Although I had never sought it out personally, seeing a recognizable name in the punk exhibit in the most contrary of places was a stark connection to make in my head at the time. After researching about Vivienne Westwood’s progression and modernized shift she seems a curious but apt fit within Japanese Fashion. Vivienne Westwood’s notability as an English fashion designer and roots in punk reaches the spectrum of Japanese Fashion icons from Modern day quiet rebellion of rooted Japanese Culture, to the black dreadlocked pseudo-punk romanticized version of delinquent Japan we see today. There is something personal within her fashion portfolio despite the large diversity by which her clientele identify on the spectrum of cultural identity and fashion expression.
To View Japanese Fashionistas in varying degrees of Vivenne Westwood: http://tokyofashion.com/brands/vivienne-westwood/
Price, Shannon. “Vivienne Westwood (born 1941) and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style.” InHeilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vivw/hd_vivw.htm (October 2004)
Vivenne Westwood Designs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 08, 2016, from http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/vivienne-westwood-designs/