TravelGuides – Being Mr Westwood: Vivienne is ‘eccentric, serious and genuine’ | Vivienne Westwood

TravelGuides – Being Mr Westwood: Vivienne is ‘eccentric, serious and genuine’ | Vivienne Westwood

On 21 March 2020, days earlier than Britain’s preliminary lockdown, Vivienne Westwood shared her first isolation tackle to the nation. Royalty, of kinds, she delivered it in her trademark trend: she spoke of saving the planet and her new manifesto, whereas donning couture – and surrounded by curiosities – in her south London house.

These impassioned speeches turned a 12 months-lengthy weekly prevalence. Westwood provided anti-racism, anti-capitalism, and a stern rebuke of the arms commerce; in wig, blue gown and floral-print platforms, she spoke of the necessity to rescue the oceans, whereas standing in her tiled bathtub.

For Andreas Kronthaler, behind the digital camera, these recordings supplied a way more private salvation. Westwood’s devoted husband and inventive accomplice of over three many years, he discovered crafting these movies – designing outfits, holding fittings, dressing units and line-studying – created construction and goal in a time with little else to give attention to.

An unconventional pandemic pastime, certain, however that’s unsurprising. Westwood has spent many years proudly preaching her unapologetic punk gospel, and it’s Kronthaler, 55, who has – for a lot of that point – been concurrently within the background and very a lot by her aspect.

Today, although, Westwood is at house, whereas in Battersea Park’s Old English Garden, Kronthaler has simply completed posing for photographs. We’re sitting on a bench surrounded by flowers and a fountain, only a stone’s throw from Westwood’s London HQ.

“I’m sorry,” he says, in a gentle Austrian accent, charmingly flirtatious. “A couple of weeks ago it was even more ravishing with all the roses. This is my oasis. If I need to think of something, I walk over here. I’ve been doing it for 30 years.”

Andreas Kronthaler in Battersea Park’s Old English Garden.
Andreas Kronthaler in Battersea Park’s Old English Garden. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

Birkenstocks apart, in the present day he’s dressed solely in his personal collections. A striped baseball cap is the one splash of color, alongside white kung fu pants, T-shirt and socks emblazoned with a Westwood emblem. “I never wear white,” he says. “I don’t know why I did today. I look a bit like a guru, it’s cleansing.”

Maybe it’s the garments, as a result of he dives proper into reflection. Off the bat, we discuss concerning the destruction of England’s textile trade; how he yearns for the electrical energy of a trend present: I need to come to Paris. Compared to its European equivalents in Milan and Paris, Kronthaler says, London trend week feels small, unbecoming for a metropolis of its dimension and vitality.

Did I do know that quite than carry issues down the steps, Westwood simply throws them?

“I don’t know what stimulates me,” he provides, floating again. “What is it all for? We live in such precarious times. It’s not just Covid, it highlighted the environmental crisis we are heading towards.”

“Sorry,” he says, wanting up. “I’m drifting like the waterlilies in the fountain.”

Raised in rural Austria, Kronthaler spent his childhood creating. A blacksmith father taught him the worth of workmanship; mum’s wardrobe supplied material to “repurpose” for his Barbies’ fancy-gown.

At 13, he discovered an experimental boarding college which taught creative professions alongside an educational schooling. He then spent a 12 months learning industrial design on the University of Applied Arts in Vienna earlier than re-enrolling for a trend course on which Westwood taught. “I wasn’t really aware of her before then,” he says. “I’d seen bits of her work but I was still innocent and ignorant.”

Kronthaler remembers their first encounters with readability. “She looked great, really great. So eccentric. She started to talk, and she was so serious, so genuine.” Despite the slight language barrier, he talks of this deep and immediate connection. “She was opening doors as she spoke,” he recollects. “Everything she said articulated ideas I’d not even had yet. About fashion, yes, but more than that: a way to look at life.”

He’s unsure if she felt the identical at first; Westwood was a trainer – 25 years his senior. Still, inside weeks there have been lengthy dinners and theatre journeys within the Austrian capital. Eighteen months later, the pair moved again to London the place they’ve been collectively ever since. “I feel very lucky,” he says. “To this day, I can’t explain what makes us work. We are very much the opposite in character. But maybe that’s why we get on so well.” What one lacks, he says, the opposite has.

In April this 12 months, Westwood turned 80, and this month marks 40 years since she launched her first label and staged her first Pirate Collection catwalk present. The couple have little time for sentimentality, says Kronthaler. In reality, he’d anticipated to spend Westwood’s huge day within the workplace, with out her. “She never really bothers with birthdays,” he says, “I think maybe it’s because she’s northern?”

So many bouquets saved arriving on the door that Kronthaler merely couldn’t depart the home. “She just had to really give in,” he says. “It was a beautiful day because for once she let herself enjoy it.” The night was spent outdoors at Piccadilly Circus with a bottle of champagne: the LED wall beaming out an anti-conflict video she’d created specifically for CIRCA, a public artwork venture which additionally commissioned Patti Smith and Ai Weiwei, curated by Josef O’Connor.

To at the present time, Westwood stays the style home’s visionary, its figurehead. To mark its first 40 years, this month a brand new photograph ebook has been revealed: Vivienne Westwood: Catwalk. It catalogues collections and exhibits by way of the years: the corsetry and androgyny; Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. It’s a full-color celebration of her successes. It’s additionally very a lot a retrospective, at a time when the designer is stepping again a little bit. After 25 years as a silent accomplice and inventive director, in 2016 the home’s Gold Label assortment was renamed Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood – a nod to his position’s rising significance.

As of now, says Kronthaler, they’ve discovered a brand new work rhythm. “I get on with the fashion side,” he says, “while she is focused on creating a collection of pictures. She comes in once a week to the office or I bring things home to show her.”

Maybe this is why Kronthaler appears so pensive. When it involves creative output, Westwood and he share their style, however their characters couldn’t be extra totally different. She’s an outspoken supporter of the CND, Peta and Julian Assange, an activist who’ll communicate all day about civil liberties, media propaganda and the setting. “She likes telling people what to do and think,” he says. “She’s a teacher; I’m the opposite.” He shares her rules to the core however he’s quieter, introspective and considerate.

All this should certainly pose difficulties for the person seeking to safe not simply Westwood’s legacy,however its path into the longer term.

“Fashion in general is a huge polluter,” Kronthaler says, unprompted. “The more you get to a labour-intensive product or output, the more righteous you are about the impact, but no one is a saint, even at the high end.” To make even the most straightforward cotton, he says, you want enormous quantities of assets: “Why would we ever need to buy new T-shirts when there are so many in charity shops?”

That’s rather a lot to grapple with, for a trend home’s chief. He actually has ideas: do we want gross sales? A unique method to seasons? Maybe garments may very well be rented out, not bought. He sees the contradictions.

“I normally don’t really talk about this much,” he says. “Vivienne is the big campaigner.” But Kronthaler is aware of that each one this comes with stepping up into Westwood territory.

The manner he sees it, this is a part of a transition. What’s subsequent he doesn’t fairly need to say, however there’s positively one thing. “The House needs tidying up,” he says, “and I have an idea, so does Vivienne. We’ll be launching something new in the company, hopefully quite soon.” He smiles, with a way of actual pleasure.

“Vivienne still has the same bite and energy,” he stresses, “although just a little slower. But I still rely on her totally: she’s the only person I trust to say when something is good, the only adviser and guide I can follow.”

‘She’s a genius’: Westwood at 80

Juergen Teller
I first photographed Vivienne in 1993 and cherished the way in which she was, and seemed. What she stated and wore made a deep impression on me. We have labored collectively ever since; it’s at all times fascinating, fruitful, difficult, peaceable, pure and stunning.

Chrissie Hynde
Chrissie Hynde: ‘I’d by no means met anybody like Viv earlier than.’ Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Chrissie Hynde
I met Vivienne of their store on the Kings Rd within the early Nineteen Seventies. I’d by no means met anybody like Viv earlier than, and come to think about it, by no means have since. She is what I might name an English eccentric within the time period’s absolute best definition. An educational, former college trainer, who invented the look of punk.

Kate Moss
She’s a genius. When I obtained paid for my first modelling job, I went straight to the World’s End store and purchased a flooring-size sheepskin coat. I nonetheless have it, and am saving all of my Westwood for Lila!

Tracey Emin
We’ve been mates for over 20 years. We hit it off the second we met. I like that she is a maverick, she’s spent her complete life sticking her head above the parapet and standing by her beliefs and what’s really vital to her.

One of my basic Westwood moments was when Vivienne and Andreas persuaded me to do the Paris catwalk. I simply bear in mind Andreas pushing me on my again, like I used to be about to leap out of an airplane. Instead of strolling down the center of the catwalk, I walked all the way in which across the outdoors at midnight! My subsequent tour down the catwalk was between Jerry Hall and Alek Wek. I believed I seemed like a small troll however Vivienne and Andreas cherished it. We had an actual camaraderie spirit and did a variety of small tasks collectively. I actually love my affiliation with Vivienne and I’m very proud to name her my good friend.

Pamela Anderson
She is an affect to everybody she meets. It’s unbelievably particular, actual, raw- no filter. Viv and Andreas got here with Jurgen Teller to my tiny trailer in Malibu for a shoot whereas I used to be constructing my home there. It was when Obama turned president and we had been so stuffed with hope, sleeping on blow-up mattresses making spaghetti with Queens of the Stone Age. My neighbours simply thought I had my loopy family members over and preferred to take household footage: I used to be skateboarding in a pink Couture wedding ceremony gown. Happy fortieth, Westwood, although time is an phantasm.

Vivienne Westwood Catwalk by Alexander Fury, with contributions from Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler is revealed by Thames & Hudson, £55

TravelGuides – Being Mr Westwood: Vivienne is ‘eccentric, serious and genuine’ | Vivienne Westwood