Monday 7 March 2016

Top 10 Most Life-Changing Quotes from 'Vivienne Westwood'

"I guess my greatest inspirations at the moment are anything to do with pop culture of the 60's and 70's," I replied to kind folks of the Willoughby Book Club when they asked what kind of books I'm into. "Especially musical memoirs. I loved Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine for the reveries of punk rock London, and LOVED Just Kids by Patti Smith for the wistful nostalgia of love and art in New York City."

A week later, a hefty, beautifully wrapped green parcel was dropped through my letterbox. I unwrapped it with curious glee to find a hand-written inscription reading 'This book belongs to Katie Oldham' inside possibly the greatest gift I'd ever received.

"Well," I said holding up my new copy of Vivienne Westwood's memoir. "Looks like they've absolutely bloody nailed it."

So before I get into just how much this book has absolutely CHANGED MY LIFE, I wanna talk a little bit about Willoughby Book Club. I discovered them on Twitter, when I asked around if there were any book subscription services. Subscription boxes are such a huge thing now, and there seems to be for everything - from makeup miniatures to cheese samples. There simply had to be one for books right? It's no secret that I simply adore to read, and am always seeking to broaden my horizons yet often feel overwhelmed by the choice. With my new phase of Scarphelia that's something I'd love to begin to offer - book reviews and recommendations of shit that has changed my life, and if you get me, will sure as hell change yours too.

And so I stumbled upon Willoughby Book Club and was instantly awed. 

With a selection of subscription packages ranging from 3 months to a year, The WBC guide you through a brief interview to gauge your reading habits, then source the most amazing books you are yet to read and deliver them straight to your door. Packages range from £29-£44, which works out to be as little as £10 a month - often cheaper than books instore, and beautifully gift-wrapped and hand-dedicated. What I love most is that this is not just an automated service that send out the same book to everyone when they come in, but a bespoke, tailored service to make sure you receive a book that you will love. 

Vivienne Westwood had been lurking in my Amazon wishlist for months, and I think I did a little squeal when I opened it and realised it was now finally mine. As I said, they truly could not have chosen better, and now I've finished, I kinda sorta hold them accountable for changing my damn life for the better. 

As I often do, I took to this book with a pen ready to underline the pearls of wisdom, but little did I expect just how I was going to be blown away by the first line on the very first page. I even used it as the start of my previous blog post explaining the change in my attitude toward writing.

That foreword outlined exactly the education I was about to receive, but also precisely what I needed to hear to soothe my worrisome soul about my own future. And so alongside that, these were my top 10 quotes I pulled from this literary masterpiece. 

On lessons from history that will save our future:

"My duty is to understand. To understand the world. This is our exchange for the luck of being alive. From people who have lived before us we can rediscover different versions of the world through art - this is the true meaning of culture - and by comparison, we form our own ideas of the world better than the one we are in, the one we've made a mess of. We can change our future. In the pursuit of ideas you will start to think, and that will change your life. And if you change your life, you can change the world." - foreword 

On forgiving our previous selves:

"Everybody knows their past life is like a series of different little scenes. It's a story and you've selected from your memory the things that you think are important. Nothing from the past is entirely true. But you are only in those scenes properly when they are put together. That's what we should do, sew together all the scenes. I look back now and I hardly recognise myself, or I only recognise this tiny piece of what I have become and I think 'You silly, silly little girl, how could you be so naive?" But then again, naive gets you places too, and it gets you hungry to learn. That's what I'd say to the girl in that photograph, actually; 'Don't be afraid. Keep reading. Say it like it is. And then think for yourself.' " - p63

On storytelling through clothing:

"The ingredients of punk are various. The idea of people wearing clothes that were a bit too big or a bit too small - like hand-me-downs and everything. That was all a part of the look... It's all about stories." "Even worn denim gives the idea of experience. If you wear old clothes, then you can look like you have the experience, the story that the clothes carry." - p136, p239

On inspiration being the key to education:

"I don't believe in closing in. You don't make people want to change things by making them realise how poor and humiliated they are... you have to make people feel great before you get change." - p239

On enduring love with a soulmate:

"It was an heroic time, that's how I think of it. We were on the road. We slept together. We stayed in the same rooms together and we drove the van together... We were fighting in the desert together. We were comrades-in-arms. We were not some bourgeois couple, we were soldiers in battle." - p268

On aging:

"I really like myself physically. I see all kinds of things in my face; secrets and depths. I wouldn't dream of having a facelift." - p322

On marriage:

"And whatever he does, I would stick by Andreas. The way I see it, he can do whatever he wants. And I don't just mean creatively. I like to think for myself. I am proud and I am a rebel. So I would not stoop, ever, EVER to expect anything from anybody that they didn't want to give me. I would never, ever demand anything from a man. He can always do what he wants. There's a wonderful Chinese proverb: If a horse is yours, it will always come home. And you've got to understand Andreas is a horse. A wild, horse." - p344

Ian Kelly on Westwood, the brand:

"And there is now, for anyone intrigued by this story or by her shops and her clothes, much more than a promise of something finely made. There is the whole iconography of a story. There is the narrative of a woman and a series of ideas. When you buy Westwood you buy something backed with a story, like a recipe with true history. Something anti or something ante. Something with the scent of her learning and her reading, her picture-gazing, her rows with The Establishment or indeed with Malcom; something wrought with human graft." - p368

Ian Kelly on the origins of an icon:

"She remains rooted in the world of punk - it is the wellspring of her credibility within fashion, and it is also one of the very few moments in the history of dress when the language of a culture was shifted by clothes." p371

Julian Assange on the global power of Vivienne as an activist:

"She is inconvenient; people cannot handle the consistency and seriousness with which she sticks to her politics. They are made uncomfortable by the way she injects politics into everything. But politics is everywhere, and if we didn't have bloody-minded people like Vivienne, we'd have no chance of changing our world for the better." - p396


I can't really deduce what I love most about this book; the power of a self-made woman, the punk rock guide of sticking your finger up to the man and doing it yourself, the defiant battle against oppressive men, the seamless way she raised children whilst fighting for her goals, the infusion of music, art and literature into fashion, the foolproof formula of learning from the past to save the future or the sheer scope of one very famous person using her power, money and stature to save the world from injustice, inequality, climate change and deforestation...

This book, and this woman, are simply everything. And I'm pretty sure I'll be raising my future kids on this book, Vivienne being their  non-fic fairy godmother of badassery.

And thank you so much for the Willoughby Book Club for this generous gift as part of our collaboration - you've truly given me a key to the blueprints of my own future.