18th September 2021

Save Our Souls – Vivienne Westwood S/S2022, London Fashion Week

Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh joins the Resistance for Vivienne Westwood S/S2022

What can art say in a time of endless global crisis?  For the Vivienne Westwood Save Our Souls micro-manifesto, the brand’s S/S2022 collection unapologetically demands that we “Stop Arms production, Close the Factories, Stop Arms Sales”.  Westwood’s relationship with ungovernable forces and dissenting lifestyles has remained central to the label’s design process for the past five decades. 

For S/S2022, vagrant Elizabethan-inspired pirates endure the all-encompassing might of mother nature.  Save Our Souls harkens back to the seaport roots of historic English couturier Redfern and Westwood’s own maritime history.  A spiritual successor to Westwood’s S/S1998 collection, Save Our Souls is a distress call in a global crisis deriving inspiration from the 19th-century painting ‘Joseph Vernet Tied to a Mast in a Storm’.  “I was tied to the mast and the clothes underwent a sea change,” writes Westwood. “On a sailing ship when the tempest arose, everything had to be tied down or be washed away”.

Save Our Souls is filled with asymmetry and surprise, with pieces such as the Drunken Corset Top illustrating a precise conceptualisation of how a ‘sea change’ would affect the tailoring of 100% organic cotton.  The Chaos Shirt creates a whirlpool effect on the body in real-time, as the belt details of the Scylla Top speak to Westwood’s preoccupation with maritime wrecks and the art of salvage.  The Graziano Trenchcoat maintains the iconic Westwood traditional tartan style using only 100% Global Recycled Standard polyester, while organic cotton and mulesing-free wool is used throughout the collection’s tartan suit sets.  The collection overall signposts its intent with a focus on regenerative agriculture, recyclable, organic and cruelty-free fabrics, and sustainable innovation by circular design.

Artistically, the newest Vivienne Westwood collection exemplifies the gravity of the designer’s manifesto.  Save Our Souls is avant-garde yet minimalist; an efficient collection reduced to its minimum and “thereby forming a whole”.  Politically, the campaign is fiercely ambitious.  With a series of dystopian silhouettes, Westwood foresees the reckoning of the ever-worsening climate crisis and its number one pollutant: war.  Alongside more traditional forms, Westwood’s tailoring creates the static illusion of waterlogged clothing, as the collection creatively presents its models both at the heart of the tempest and the bottom of the ocean floor. 

“A work of art may show us ourselves – who we are and our place in the world.”

Vivienne Westwood, Active Resistance to Propaganda


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