QUEEN OF PUNK: VIVIENNE WESTWOOD SHOE EXHIBITION BEIRUT 2011
By Sara Tavasolian
After forty years in the fashion business, a unique designer such as Vivienne Westwood deserves a museum dedicated to her beloved shoe collections. We all have witnessed her adventures in tailoring that have taken us back to historical places; such as the 17th and 18th century French era. As the sole originator of punk style in the fashion industry, Vivienne Westwood has managed to connect the art world to her fantasy style island. To document the evolution of her footwear collections a private collector has decided to exhibit these exceptional pieces around the world. For two years these shoes will be traveling to specific locations due to their market requirements and will be displayed at various museums and palaces such as the famous Sursock Palace in Beirut. Luckily, the Lebanese media and I were one of the few that got invited for the first look at this marvelous collection.
I’m still in awe with Westwood’s capacity and her approach towards fashion. The collections dates back to 1973, which means that a lot of us didn’t get to enjoy these beauties. Now it’s our chance to admire Dame Westwood’s defiance of high heel rules with elevation and historical design footwear.
The notorious Gillie Platform that was worn by Naomi Campbell
My interview with Dame Westwood’s spokesperson, Giordano Capuano:
Sara Tavasolian: You started this tour in Russia, and now you are in Beirut, what made you decide to come here and what is the purpose behind this exhibition?
Giordano Capuano: This year is Vivienne Westwood’s 40th anniversary as a brand and we wanted to send a message out as regards to what Vivienne Westwood represents. We also have a store in Beirut, which we don’t have in other cities of the Middle East and this was the main reason that we chose to come here. We also believe that Beirut is the best city to amplify our message across. It is a very unique city. The purpose with it wasn’t through a commercial perspective rather than to establish a relationship with your crowd.
ST: You didn’t want to consider Dubai?
GC: Basically, we have a store here that we don’t have in Dubai. Furthermore, Vivienne came here for the opening of her store and she liked the environment and the people, so we thought Beirut deserves to see this exhibition.
ST: In your opinion: what would you say defines a Vivienne Westwood shoe?
GC: High Heels, Platforms (laugh)
ST: I’m interested in knowing the difference between designing a collection and a shoe line as unusual as hers and being able to introduce it to the mass market?
GC: Vivienne participates in all the design aspects of the company. We have many departments and all together they are meant to represent a look. The look of the clothes has to connect to the design of the shoes accordingly and the same message has to pass through all the departments. What Vivienne always says is that “beauty constantly stays in limitation”, so the more limited the collection the more demand for it.
ST: When visitors come to the exhibition, do they have certain shoe that they wish to see?
GC: To begin with, I think people get quite surprised to see a Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibition because they know her from her clothes and not her shoes. Therefore, when they arrive, they are not aware of what they are about to see. They usually embrace the collection and feel that they have discovered something new.
ST: After 40 years in the business would you say that the customers have changed or that they have evolved with her?
GC: They have evolved with her, but of course we got new loyal customers. If we were going to do a market research you would see that our customers range anywhere from young adults to 50’s and above. We dress the mother, the daughter and the grandmother, plus the royalties and your everyday students.
ST: And last, I would like to know how has the brand been accepted in Lebanon knowing that women here love classic designs?
GC: Another reason we decided to come here was to educate everyone to who we are. We can’t open a shop and pretend that people will come in and purchase because it is a Vivienne Westwood brand. We have to slowly introduce our brand, and I believe that we have been doing quite well given the competition around us. We are a global brand, but we don’t have the support of banks or big companies, however this hasn’t been an obstacle. It’s all about working hard.
ST: Thank you for your time
GC: Thank you
I’m ending this interview with a quote by the Queen of Punk:
“Shoes must have very high heels and platforms to put women’s beauty on a pedestal” –Vivienne Weswood
I would like to thank my lovely friend Tala Hajjar for inviting me to interview Giordano and Giordano for being kind enough to answer my questions.