★ HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY TO MY OLD BOSS VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ★

April 12, 2021

★ HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY TO MY OLD BOSS VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ★

 I started working at Vivienne Westwood in 2008. I was a 22 year old Fashion Student at Glasgow Caledonian University and my brother and boyfriend at the time had both cut an ad out of the newspaper and handed it to me


‘RECRUITING: FIRST VIVIENNE WESTWOOD STORE OPENING IN SCOTLAND’.

I remember how my heart leapt, being a massive fan of music and fashion - Vivienne Westwood was an icon to me. I had tried to recreate some of her iconic punk looks as a teenager, with safety pins, spray paints and torn up denim. She created the punk look; The Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, her first shop SEX. She forged a rebel aesthetic that was truly her own, with a trademark mix of provocation and a respect for tradition and heritage.

I knew I just HAD to work there. There was nothing else for it. I didn't know how to make it happen, but I had laser like focus on getting that job. 

I can remember the interview like it was yesterday. I'd spend a week trying decide on what to wear, running interview questions through my head and grappling with self doubt and insecurities. All I can remember from the day was how nervous I was! The interview took place in the Malmaison Hotel in Glasgow (which was pretty fancy for a poor 22 year old student), and I had to walk down a precarious spiral staircase in heels under the watchful eye of my soon to be bosses.
When my interviewer, a sharply dressed Italian who later became my boss, Antonio, shook my hand I accidentally kissed him on the cheek in my flustered awkward state. (I'd been to a wedding the day before and did lots of hand shaking and cheek kissing, so that was my excuse!). Throughout the interview I’d replay my faux pas and feel my cheeks burn 🔥 😳. I still cringe to this day! (Sorry Antonio!).

Despite what I thought was a dreadful interview, I got the job, and later found out that over 600 people applied, so it felt like a golden ticket to me.

Antonio recently shared with me "In reality, the real asset was you. It's true we interviewed people for ages and some with a wide experience and proven background but although you were very young we felt your passion for the brand. We employed the person in front of us not the one on the CV". 

In the years that followed I became immersed in the world of Westwood; a crazy, exciting, sometimes cut-throat, place. I worked my way up the ladder, making many mistakes along the way but quickly learning from them as I went and eventually found myself in front of another Italian man (none other than Carlo D’Amario - Vivienne’s ex-husband and joint business owner) for another interview. This time I was being selected for the role of UK Retail Area Manager.
 
(Carlo D'Amario CEO Vivienne Westwood)

My thick Glasgow accent and his thick Italian one made for an... interesting... interview. The last thing he asked me was ‘what star sign are you?’, ‘cancer’ I replied. ‘Ah, the same as my mother - you are like a silk glove on an iron fist, strong on the inside but soft and gentle on the outside’. I’ve never been described better 😂. I’m not sure if it was purely down to my star sign, but I got the job! The first female and youngest ever UK Retail Area Manager.

(Me, reading Vivienne's V&A Book - 2009)

I stayed at Vivienne Westwood until 2014 and had some of the best times of my life there. Fashion shows, buying trips, drunken nights in karaoke bars, protesting outside the American Embassy shoulder to shoulder with Vivienne. There were tough times too, a twenty something year old trying to cut her teeth in the fashion world had its challenges. I learned to grow a thick skin very quickly! 

Vivienne Westwood was and always will be a huge role model for me, an absolute powerhouse (with a sometimes wicked tongue), she is strong, determined and her approach to sustainability and ethical fashion has carried on to my own brand. One of the things that always struck me about Vivienne was her resilience and self belief. She didn't start in fashion until her thirties, having worked as a school teacher, married and with a son. No matter how many times she was laughed at (and believe me she was, there are some brutal tv appearances on YouTube!) or told she wouldn't make it, even on the brink of bankruptcy, she had a vision and powered on with no time for the naysayers.  

My years working at Westwood taught me so much and shaped me into the woman I am today. To quote A Tale Of Two Cities, it sometimes felt like "the best of times and the worst of times". I met some amazing and creative people, (as well as a few not so great people), but looking back, I’m proud of what I achieved and overcame during that time. Working under such an icon was truly incredible and those who've worked there will know that there's nothing that quite compare to the Westwood World. I am still in touch with a lot of my old colleagues, some still working at VW and others who have moved on. It's always nice to have a wee trip down memory lane with them and see where they are now.
I recently rewatched the 'Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist' documentary and it took me straight back to my twenties. If you've not seen it, go check it out, it's a pretty accurate glimpse into the Woman and the Brand. 

So here’s to the Dame, Happy Birthday Viv! 80 years strong. 




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