Five Lessons with a Punk Rock Spirit for Mid-Lifers

Vivienne Westwood, spirit of Punk Rock fashion.
Vivienne Westwood, spirit of Punk Rock fashion.

Wild, wild Westwood is her name and not just because of her orange hair.

In London in the 70s, this former primary school teacher and now keen gardener was the guiding spirit of punk image. As a designer and seamstress, Westwood caused a fashion rebellion of Brit fabric, safety pins and bondage – all familiar now but outrageous then.

Punk Rock, a counter culture with the greatest influence on fashion, was born to be incendiary and designed to provoke a rebel yell. An exhibit in the NY Metropolitan this summer honors the movement. Punk rocker

Westwood sat down with Anthony Mason for a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, 08/04/13 (CBS interview here):

Mason: Did you mean to be outrageous? 

Westwood: No, no. I never meant to shock people but at the time of punk rock I was outraged by the way the world was mismanaged.  Somehow this became kind of a crusade to challenge the status quo.

And the best way to confront the British? Be as obscene as possible.

At 72, she’s still the owner of her fashion empire with 126 stores and is chosen designer for  the new uniforms for Virgin Atlantic. Gwyneth and Meryl wear her clothes.

“All I wanted to do was make clothes for heroes -for people who wanted to stand tall.”

Looking back, Westwood says she never wasted a scrap of fabric. Today, honored as a dame, she still teaches us to expect the unexpected. And as for her place in history, she thinks she’s done more good in the world than Margaret Thatcher. (Seriously, she said that.) “To tell you the truth I’m still trying to make the world a better place.” 

I’m no wild, wild Westwood. My hair is dyed brown and the closest I come to rebellion is marching around Atlanta’s Capitol on a several Saturday mornings in the early 80s with my six-year-old daughter to advocate higher salaries for teachers. (Don’t rag on me about taking my child to a protest. I couldn’t afford a babysitter. It was a kind of parade to her; she carried a sign; she loved it.)

While it’s kind of unexpected for me to find much about the Punk Rock movement relevant, I did. These messages seem a good way to begin this blog.

Westwood defines fashion as revolution against "what is." Photo: Mattia Passeri, 2008.
Westwood defines fashion as revolution against “what is.” Photo: Mattia Passeri, 2008.

Five Lessons with a Punk Rock Spirit for Mid-Lifers:

1. Traditional retirement, an outdated social construct, will corrupt your life. Don’t do it.

2. Stand tall and find a new way. Be a hero for yourself.

3. Make the world a better place by being productive and earning money until you are 80.

4. Don’t waste a scrap of your time thinking you’ll figure this out later. Do something now.

Oh yeah, and stop buying clothes. That’s Westwood’s current message to the Queen who wants her to wear her clothes more. “The Queen doesn’t need a new outfit for everything.”

 And we don’t need to be silly victims to a social construct that doesn’t work for who we are now.

Enter Rebel Yell.

Any kind of a Rebel Yell will do.
Any kind of a Rebel Yell will do.



CBS Sunday Morning, 08/04/13  NY Metropolitan Museum, May 9th-August 14th,  May 2013 she’s designing Virgin Atlanta Uniforms

About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.
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One Response to Five Lessons with a Punk Rock Spirit for Mid-Lifers

  1. marisol says:

    Great article. I have always been a fan of Vivienne Westwood. After watching the segment on CBS, my admiration for her grew even more…perhaps because I am on the other side of my life, searching for my rebel yell.
    Thank you Barbara for giving us the 5 lessons.

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