Much has been made that Vivienne Westwood disdains technology. But during a private sit-down at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, hours before the gala opening of her touring exhibition (which runs through June 10), the icon told us what she really thinks.
“I have not called myself a technophobe. My motto is you get out what you put in,” she says. “I have two people who work for me, and everything they do is on the computer. They even write notes on it. They live in their own world. I think it’s sad. I say ‘Go to the museum to actually see the textiles. Get out of the office.’ How can you get all your research from this thing? “
For the former school mistress-turned-punk rock revolutionary, the “only education is self education”—and that means getting your hands dirty in life. “I just think technology is being abused, becoming a tyrant among the human race. I’m not against science when it’s used properly, especially when it makes people happier. But we now know, in many cases, it’s making people more unhappy.”
It’s energizing to find time hasn’t blunt the mind or opinions of the 65-year-old grand dame of fashion (she was made a real Dame in 2006). Her Fall ’07 runway show, held the day before jetting off for the only U.S. stop of her retrospective, was titled “Wake Up, Cave Girl” as a rallying cry to get back to our human core.
Even after having lead a media tour through the costume hall (in six-inch platform boots, no less), in which she described many of the jaw-dropping 100-plus looks on display–including a few added since launching at London’s V&A four years ago, she appeared as tireless as ever raging against the injustices in the ongoing imprisonment of Native American artist Leonard Peltier in the U.S. and individuals still awaiting their court date in Guantanamo or even London. “You can’t just not care about what the government is doing,” she says. “There are people in jail—in our democratic society– who’ve never even had a chance to prove their innocence and everyone calls them terrorists. We’ve no idea.” Around her neck is a metal plate scrawled with “I am not a terrorist. Please don’t arrest me.” It also appears on a T-shirt benefiting human rights group Liberty. “You can’t have culture, democracy or civilization unless you have justice before the law.
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