Always at the forefront of cultural trends, Vivienne Westwood is considered by many to be one of the most original and influential designers of our time. Gentle parody of Establishment, a playful mix of British fabrics, sheer eccentricity and a keen curiosity is where Westwood delights and excels. Even the most hardened of Anglophiles went weak in the knees when Westwood and The Rug Company joined forces. Renowned for unique, handmade rugs and collaborating with great designers, the marriage of unconformity and Union Jack waving Englishness continues to enrapture legions of fans.
Over the past 13 years together The Rug Company and Westwood have jointly created iconic collections featuring subverted motifs, brilliant oversize magnolia blooms, abstract graphics of milk thistles and the now infamous tarnished Union Jack in rich Aubusson wool. Most recently, Westwood designed Highland for The Rug Company's 20th Anniversary Collection, subverting the traditional Scottish tartan into a contemporary rug design.
The Rug Company speaks to British Fashion's grande Dame about her inspirations, favourite places and why quality matters.
Because handmade rugs have a notoriously long life and are, sadly, likely to outlive us all, do you think that this longevity should influence design and colour decisions?
My products are well designed and of good quality and I’ve always encouraged people to purchase intelligently instead of buying throwaway goods. I don’t think I consciously design with longevity in mind but they often do last and are worn for seasons.
The Wallace Collection in particular for the 17th century.
What is the story behind the Orb symbol?
The VW signature orb symbolises the world- yet it is quintessentially British, part of the historical royal regalia held by the Queen. The logo represents ‘taking tradition into the future’, where the orb represents tradition and the past and the future is symbolised by Saturn’s orbital ring.
The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock.
What surprised you about the translation of your designs into rugs?
It’s always great to see your clothing designs transformed and adapted into other products. It brings a new angle to the design.
My favourite painters are Titian and Velasquez and also Vermeer.
Fashion can be seen as a self-expression, a sometimes provocative statement about sensuality, emotional or even political beliefs. Is your home also a place for self-expression?
Fashion wouldn’t have been my choice of job. I did it because I could and you have to earn your living. In the course of my career, I am constantly inundated with people asking me things. People are sometimes more concerned with my opinions than in looking at my clothes and there is a reason for that. I do have respect from people that see that my clothes are real and not just hype. The honest truth is that I try to communicate what I think. If you feel that you have anything to say that may help, then you appreciate having the platform to say it.
What is your favourite room in your house?
If I am free I can spend the whole day in bed reading. I would then say my bedroom.
You extol the importance of buying less but buying quality, something that lasts. Do you feel your collection for The Rug Company reflects this philosophy?
Quality rather than quantity is my philosophy and lifestyle, therefore, my collection with The Rug Company reflects this.
How did you relate past and present within your rug collections?
The only place to find ideas is by looking at what people did in the past. It’s the only way to be original. You can’t be original by just wanting to do something. Nothing comes from a vacuum.
Favourite city? London is an amazing city. There’s nowhere in the world like it - it’s so large. You sense the whole history.
The fibres of the noble bamboo plant are very long and strong. With special treatment they can be spun into a yarn that is lustrous like silk yet cool to the touch. Bamboo yarn is uneven in colour and texture and the result is a rustic finish that exhibits interesting fluctuations in tone for a natural look.
Is the public perception of you different to your personal one?
I do think that I’m a very responsible person. My career has given me a certain status. On the human level, I’ve learnt about people including myself. I’ve learnt that even the smallest thing is never black or white and that people’s behaviour is always relative to the situation.
My perfume Boudoir Sin Garden.