Star Designer Leaves Berlin | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 04.07.2005
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Star Designer Leaves Berlin

Sometimes she made her students cry, but she also inspired them to be bold and inventive. The quirkiest and loudest of all iconic designers, Vivienne Westwood, has left Berlin, where she taught for the past 12 years.


The Queen of Punk bids adieu

After 12 years of teaching at Berlin's University of the Arts, educating new generations of fashion designers and raising general hell, the UK-born star designer and Germany's other famous VW, Vivienne Westwood, bid farewell to the German capital.

While continuing her design work, Westwood is planning to devote more of her time to political engagements and literary projects.

Appearing at a press-conference in Berlin on Friday, the 64- year-old, with her trademark carrot orange hair and enough spunk to put some of her younger colleagues to shame, wore a T-shirt with the word "Liberty" scrawled above the drawing of a heart behind bars.

"There is no culture without justice before the law," said Westwood in a public display of support for the independent human rights organization "Liberty," whose mission is to protect civil liberties and promote human rights across the globe.

When asked about fashion today, she attacked the predominant mass-consumerist style that leaves little space for innovation and creativity.

"The world has become so americanized that people look uglier than before. The more you consume, the less you think. People should buy less," she said.

Combo Models Modelklasse an der UdK Berlin Modedesignerin Vivienne Westwood


End of an era

Westwood has been provoking the fashion world since the 70s, when she designed outfits for British rock punk band, the Sex Pistols.

When she moved to Berlin in 1993, she quickly immersed herself in the post-wall, urban renewal of the city's artistic scene and is responsible for strengthening Berlin's growing reputation as a fashion metropolis.

With its annual B-in-Berlin and Bread and Butter fashion shows, the German capital is now providing serious competition to cities like Düsseldorf. Low rents and a vibrant, colorful arts scene has attracted lots of fashion talent in recent years to Berlin.

"It is easy to get things going in Berlin," Westwood said, praising both the creative atmosphere of the German capital as well as her students' intellectual and artistic curiosity.

"Whenever I went to a museum, I would run into one of them (the students)," she said. But, Westwood is also said to be a hard taskmaster, with reports of students breaking into tears at some of her fashion classes.

Westwood marked the end of her Berlin years with a glamorous fashion show displaying her students' work. The event called "Copying and Transforming Old Masters," which was held on Saturday at Berlin's Nazi-era Tempelhof Airport, confirmed that Westwood's approach to fashion design as a contemporary re-reading of fashion history, has left a significant impression on her students.

Combo Models Modelklasse an der UdK Berlin Modedesignerin Vivienne Westwood

The students got a chance to display their designs in front of 1,500 guests in a snazzy, flashlight-illuminated happening that ended with standing ovations.

An international panel of designers awarded prizes for the best student work. Making sure it would not all be "strictly business," the evening ended with a farewell party in honor of the "queen of punk," which lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

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