Do It Yourself!

Do It Yourself!


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Still going strong at 70, flame-haired fashion designer Vivienne Westwood remains a trendsetter and a determined non-conformist. The film makers set out to follow her for a year from September 2009, and we see her preparing for two fashion shows, as well as some of the more private sides of her life.

Filming with HD Cam, using some strong close ups, and allowing Vivienne to talk straight to camera, they have succeeded in creating a very intimate portrait. Never more so than in her moments with artistic director Andreas Kronthaler, who also happens to be her (very attractive) husband. When he is asked “How do you collaborate?” Andreas jokingly says he pins her to the wall and puts a gun to her head. In fact they are seen arguing playfully over fabrics, music for the show and many other issues. There is a lot of teasing between them. Vivienne says at one point “I don't know why I bother asking him anything. He always lets me get my own way.” Vivienne is happy to show how she goes about designing a dress from the cutting stage. She explains it very simply, like the teacher she once was. Then she pedals away to her singing lesson.

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Later she shows us some of the books in her house and explains how some of her ideas come from Aldous Huxley. Her understanding of his writing is rather eccentric, but has resulted in her motto “Active Resistance to Propaganda”, or AR, which she now wears as a badge. She is also fond of a headband which says BRAND. This is meant to convey that big brands think they have taken over the world, but they haven't and Vivienne knows this for certain.

We visit her legendary London shop, World's End, where in archive clips from the Seventies we see punks queueing up to buy. Apparently the police used to wait for them all to arrive there, then swoop in to arrest them. Happy days!

Now her best selling item among many teeshirts with slogans is a baby's version which says “I love crap”, with love in the shape of a heart, as in New York. This too is meant to be a message about consumerism.

Music is very important in this film, with plenty of punk, as you would expect. But there's also a great range, from Tchaikovsky via Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis to Sid's immortal My Way.

What comes over very strongly in the film is that Vivienne is an endearing mixture of the anarchic and the down to earth. She performs a decidedly odd version of her anti-propaganda manifesto, which she has written for a school, and she invites us to the pilot for a T.V. series which she says will be people discussing environmental issues. Then she just talks and talks about her teenage years, until someone gives her a nudge, when she says “I suppose I should let them talk more”. By contrast, she talks very directly to camera about her childhood and her mother and about learning to knit. We can see where her D.I.Y. skills come from.

At the end of the film she tells us “My advice at the moment is to buy less, even though I'm a fashion designer. But if you do buy anything, choose well and you'd better buy Vivienne Westwood.”

Reviewed on: 11 Jun 2011
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Documentary about fashion designer, punk icon and cultural provocateur Vivienne Westwood.
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Director: Letmiya Sztalryd, Jean-Marie Sztalryd

Starring: Vivienne Westwood

Year: 2010

Runtime: 58 minutes

Country: France

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