Dear Vivienne, Thank You

Vivienne Westwood made such an impression on our lives and has been the main contributor and inspiration to our design work. We wanted to pay tribute and tell you a little about our time with the Dame.

Being taught by Vivienne was more than just learning how to design, cutting patterns/ draping or choose fabrics. She taught us how to educate ourselves.

Vivienne made us read books, 1986 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Cao Xuegin’s The Story of the Stone. She believed knowledge is power. Understand the past, to understand the present and by comparison can make good decisions for a better world.  

She sent us to art galleries in Berlin and London and she believed “The Wallace collection is the greatest art school in this country”.

What she discovered in the paintings was with such attention to detail and curiosity. We loved listening to her. Historical paintings and art were the source of her inspiration, and she never ran out of ideas.

She was funny and full of charm. Quotes like “When you don’t know what to do, you should just ask yourself; ‘What would Vivienne do?’” or “Don’t be so Hausfrau!” which made us all giggle. She was strict and not shy of telling you that you looked ridiculous in what you were wearing. She was feared at times but very much respected.

Her way of designing is how we still practise in our Jessie and James designs ...creating from a source of depth, gives your designs a meaning, a soul. This is what makes them unique and stand out.

Oh, how we loved the Gold Label shows in Paris! 

A little delirious after some sleepless nights sewing on thousands of sequins and making final adjustments to the dresses, the team was on its’ last breath. The collection was finally ready to be presented on one of the many magnificent catwalks in Paris. Behind the scenes everything was still hectic, but Vivienne kept her calm, going from one model to another in her own world. Last minute she turned a blouse back to front or creates a completely new garment out of a straight cut piece of fabric, as if it was always meant to be worn like this. We admired her spontaneity and free creation with no boundaries.

Her choice of music at the shows went right under our skin and left us covered in goosebumps when the first model stepped out.

All those hours spent in her small room in Elcho street, working on her ideas, experimenting with fabric combinations and fitting garments, we could see now how her vision had come together to this beautiful piece of art, a message to the world.

At the end of the show, when Vivienne walked out with a skip in her step like a little girl, we always felt a little overwhelmed and completely in awe of her work.

Working with Vivienne was daunting and exciting at the same time. We remember her critical thinking, always with a twinkle of lovely charm. She was cheeky and irreverent.

She would never waste any fabric. Her sustainability values went far and beyond. It became a ground principle, the base of any garment we created. We had to learn to solve and think outside the box.

She had this incredible presence in the office. We’ll never forget her perfume (Boudoir), that told you that she had entered the building and stayed with you for the rest of the day. We always thought this is how women in Boucher’s paintings had smelled.

We were in awe of her when she chose fabrics, when she designed prints or even painted them herself. The colour and pattern combinations were so unique and distinctive.

Everyone knowing a bit of pattern cutting would understand that her ingenious constructions can never be ripped off. She did it first. Always…We will continue to learn from her words and all extraordinary creations. 

The first pair of Rocking Horse shoes, a Mini-Crini and Cocotte dress…now all stored away in our wardrobes. Pieces that will always keep reminding us of the good times in Elcho street.

Thank you Vivienne.

With Love, Jessie and James.