News and Views on Tibet

Dame Vivienne Westwood, a fashion icon and supporter of Tibet dies aged 81

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Dame Vivienne Westwood wore her political agenda on her sleeves (Photo/BBC)

By Tenzin Nyidon

Dharamshala, Jan. 6: Vivienne Westwood aka godmother of punk, a fashion icon and friend of Tibet has passed away aged 81 on December 29. She has time and again used her runaway as a platform to voice her views on politics and social injustices. She was an ardent supporter of Tibet, having showcased pro-Tibet sentiments on her merchandise at global fashion events, garnering attention towards Tibet and her plight.

At the 2008 Paris Fashion Week, her model wore an off-white tote emblazoned with bold manifestos in black spelling out “KEEP TIBET ALIVE.” A tote bag also featured an image of the Tibetan “snow lion” flag in honour of the 2008 Pan-Tibetan Uprising, where a series of protests and demonstrations were held in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and other parts of Tibet in an apparent protest over the Chinese government’s treatment of Tibetan people.

Philippa Carrick, Chief Executive of the Tibet Society, said, “It was encouraging and heartening to see Westwood showing her support for Tibet, especially since the Olympics ended, it seems Tibet may have slipped under everybody’s radar.”  She also added, “I urge people not to forget Tibet and follow Vivienne’s example by raising Tibet’s flag wherever they can and showing the Chinese government the issue of Tibet will not be forgotten.”

Unlike many designers, Westwood was an avid activist who wore her political agenda on her sleeves. Deeply political, her art debunked fashion and had a purpose. She fervently believed fashion was more profound, it was political and the aim was a revolution. For Westwood, it was a movement to counter the corruption of the old world order and to destroy the century or even decade-old conformity by bringing about change.

Throughout her career, the designer took to the idea of profane political slogans by printing, knitting, and pinning manifestos on garments and sometimes, accessories that made fashion function as a weapon. Such was an idea she played with by appearing on her own press materials.

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