Vivienne Westwood: A Retrospective Coming to de Young in Exclusive North American Presentation

Jan 10, 2007

Photograph of colorful dresses and suits on display at museum.

Vivienne Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion installation at the de Young museum, 2007

San Francisco, 10 January 2007—An arresting array of more than 150 garments and accessories, from the gloriously elegant to the rebelliously provocative, by the iconoclastic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood will be showcased in this spirited and engaging exhibition. The work, created over 35 years, encompasses styles from the street style of the 1970s to grand ball gowns whose designs were influenced by historical art and dress, to the more recent exploration of pattern-cutting techniques and socio-political critique. Organized by the V&A, London, the exhibition is the largest display that the museum has ever dedicated to a British designer and features designs selected from both the V&A’s collection and Vivienne Westwood’s personal archive. The San Francisco showing is the only North American venue of a four-year international tour of European, Asian, and Pacific Rim venues.

Vivienne Westwood (b. 1941) is a global icon as well as an iconoclast. In the 1970s, she electrified the fashion world with the launch of punk and went on to become one of the most inventive and influential designers of our time. Fashion to her became “a baby I picked up and never put down.” Known best for her willingness to take risks and to disregard conventions, she also has a profound respect for the past and such as corsets and crinolines and reinvents them in new ways.

Another hallmark of her ever-evolving work is her use of thoroughly British fabrics such as tartans and tweeds to create fashion that gently parodies Establishment styles and the royalty. Regardless of how outrageous or provocative the result may be however, her approach has always been practical. She is driven by a curiosity about how things work, and her work reflects her systematic exploration of the structure of historical costume.

Vivienne Westwood: “You have a much better life if you wear impressive clothes”
A major influence on fashion design, her career ranges from street wear and haute couture to ready-to-wear; from outfits that she designed in the 1970s for the Sex Pistols, the corsetry and ball gowns of the 1980s and 1990s and the innovative pattern cutting of the most recent years. Her work spans the extremes of fashion, from London street culture to the elegant collections created for the catwalks of Paris, London and Milan and reveals Westwood’s own evolution from subversive shop owner to one of fashion’s most respected and colourful figures. The V&A curator of the Westwood exhibition, Claire Wilcox, says: “Highly influential and always ahead of her time, Vivienne Westwood encapsulates a particular kind of Britishness, combining fearless non-conformity with a sense of tradition...”

The exhibition includes sections devoted to tailoring, tartan, and accessories, and the famous blue mock-croc platform shoes that Naomi Campbell wore when she fell on the catwalk in 1993 will also be on display. Film and catwalk footage about the life and career of Westwood will be shown throughout the exhibition. Vivienne Westwood’s contribution to British fashion was honored in 1990 and 1991 when she was awarded British Designer of the Year twice in a row. The global strength of her business was recognized in 1998 when she was given the Queen’s Award for Export, and in 2003 she was named Export Designer of the Year and awarded the UK Fashion Export Award for Design. Her place in British cultural history was firmly established in 2006 when she became the first ever British designer to receive a OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her outstanding contribution to fashion.

The Fine Arts Museums and the V&A, London: An Accord
Vivienne Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion is the fourth in a series of major international exhibitions shared between the Fine Arts Museums and the V&A, London. Prior presentations include A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, on view at the Legion of Honor in 1999; Art Deco 1910–1939, on view in 2004, also at the Legion; and International Arts and Crafts: William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright, on view at the de Young from March to June, 2006.

This seven-year collaboration was formalized by the singing of an accord between the two institutions in May, 2006. The accord, which is based on the principle of equal participation from both institutions in joint activities and reciprocal exchanges, establishes preferential status regarding exhibition sharing and the sharing of collections, programs, and resources.

Prior to its showing at the de Young in San Francisco Vivienne Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion has been on view at the V&A, London, 1 April through 11 July 2004; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 11 November 2004 through 30 January 2005; Bund Shanghai, 8 July through 7 August, 2005; Taipei Fine Arts Museums, 1 September through 19 October 2005; Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo, 23 November 2005 through 15 January 2006; NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, 4 February through 14 May 2006; and Thailand Creative and Design Centre, Bangkok, 22 July through 24 September 2006.

Organization and Credit
Exhibition organized by the V&A, London.

Vivienne Westwood, published by V&A Publications, accompanies the exhibition. Written by exhibition curator Claire Wilcox, with a foreword by Vivienne Westwood, this is the first full-length study of her work as a fashion designer and contains over 200 illustrations. Available in the Museum Stores; soft cover, $35.

Admission Fees and Hours
There is a $5 surcharge for Vivienne Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion. Ticket prices include general admission to the museum and the surcharge: $15 adults; $12 seniors; $11 youths 13–17 and students with college I.D.; children 12 and under are free.

Tickets can be purchased online at; there is a service charge for tickets purchased online. Tickets can also be purchased at the door, at one of the museum’s self-service ticket kiosks, or by calling 1.866.912.6326. There is a $3.50 service charge for tickets purchased over the telephone.

Museum hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am to 5 pm. The first Tuesday of each month is free; however, the $5 special exhibition fee still applies. There is a $2 discount upon presentation of a valid MUNI Fast Pass or transfer.

About the new de Young
Founded in 1895 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young museum has been an integral part of the cultural fabric of the city and a cherished destination for millions of residents and visitors to the region for over 100 years. On 15 October 2005, the de Young museum re-opened in a new facility designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco. The new de Young provides San Francisco with a landmark art museum to showcase the museum’s significant collections of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, modern and contemporary art, art from Central and South America, the Pacific and Africa, and an important and diverse collection of textiles.