The best fashion docs often focus on the personalities and chance meetings that kick-start cultural movements. Here it’s punk that forms the edgy backdrop to a look at the life of Vivienne Westwood. It features plenty of access to the fashion designer, although it’s not always welcome: Westwood has since distanced herself from this project and, when speaking directly to camera, she’s clearly bored of talking about her past. Still, the three years director Lorna Tucker spent on it have yielded peppery insights into this complicated but fiercely talented woman.
Born in 1941, the characterful Westwood was a prolific bedroom artist from her youth. We find her bluntly declaring her innate talent for the intricacies of tailoring. Eventually, her rebellious spirit led her to Malcolm McLaren and their Chelsea boutique Sex, although the subject of McLaren feels glossed over here. You’re left craving a bit more on punk’s famous coupling.
Happily, another riveting relationship is waiting in the wings. Westwood’s current husband is Andreas Kronthaler, a younger, highly opinionated seamster who’s risen through the ranks of her company. There are rolling eyes from staff as he wrests control of designs, and the company is summoned to a meeting where Westwood’s loyalties feel torn and the fashion house is plunged into drama. It makes this the perfect film to double bill ‘Phantom Thread’ with.