CIVIL WAR IN WESTWOOD – READ ALL ABOUT IT!
For the latter half of my career in fashion I’ve hated my company. I was just the designer, and for the last 5 years I’ve taken control of it. At which point my long term business manager refused to help me and became my enemy. It had been built on quantity not quality. No strategy, just short-term statistics, constantly expanding, opening and closing doors. Each season opened and closed with statistics. No question of ‘I believe in this’, we were not selling my best clothes. Inbuilt deterioration, because we were not protecting our core; opening and closing shops.
In all that time, and together with Andreas, we have had our heads down trying to make beautiful clothes – we had no support. I hated the quantity of our merchandise – a diffusion line, loads of handbags – and perfumes based on market research. The one I love is the one I did myself in the beginning.
Taking over the company has been very hard work, it’s taken at least a third of the hours of my life – same for Andreas. The answer is in the practise – the clothes themselves. The first thing we did was reduce and clarify the collections, and that’s the reason Andreas separated to design our couture as well as working on the other lines with me. We’ve won because the management team support the strategy, but we’re not over the hill yet because they need more professional assistance in order to implement it. At the same time, I put together a digital creative team and I’m absolutely thrilled by our online image.
I haven’t spoken to my manager for the last 2 years, but I broke silence recently, in the hope that he will see sense and stop fighting us. I reiterated our strategy: what the designer wants is to sell beautiful clothes at the right price, with the right sales people, the right buyers, to the right shops. The strategy involves building our teams, we already had wonderful design teams for our clothes, technical and creative; and our general strategy must consist of teamwork, the right people in the right job.
I believe that my problem, the battle between quality and quantity, is endemic to the fashion industry: the confusion and the money and the time wasted, the unhappiness of staff who are not allowed to make their own decisions but have to try to place themselves between conflicting demands. They can’t build a career, incredible turnover of staff.
Fashion has to be designer led.
‘The pen is mightier than the sword, by opening up to the public I feel protected. Vivienne’s Radical Philosophy is an intellectual column and I wanted to give an example of the harm caused by economics based on statistics. It’s only in the last six years I realised the danger of a company run on statistics – no strategy, just a short term formula – going from one foot to the other. The whole world is run on statistics aka free market capitalism. Vivienne Westwood, the company, has been suffering from a lack of strategy for 30 years, but I only wish I’d realised then, that the problem was statistics. I think it’s positive to release it, now that I feel it will come to an end. It’s already having a cathartic effect on the people within the company. An interview is not necessary at the moment, maybe one day – when peace is declared.’ ~ Vivienne Westwood