Vivienne Westwood Retrospective

Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Victoria and Albert Museum

“Fortuitously, the exhibition ... is itself superbly designed. Conceived by Azman Architects, the physical layout of the show leads the viewer around in a clever, clear-cut linear manner.” Hadley Freeman, writer for the Guardian, in Icon magazine, June 2004

The Vivienne Westwood exhibition at the V&A provided an opportunity to showcase an icon of British fashion and it was important that the exhibition embodied the creative journey of her career and complimented her extraordinary work.

A display system, referred to as the ‘support’, was simple in form but clever in design, providing a strong background that did not distract from the exhibition. The steel support had no visible fixings, bolts, and suspensions of any kind, which enhanced Westwood’s rich and textured work rather than competing with it.


Whilst there was a contrast between the two rooms in atmosphere and feel, by featuring the floating steel planes in both sections, a united concept was achieved throughout the exhibition.

In the first gallery, where Westwood’s early works were exhibited, a series of planes made from rusty raw steel were installed, inspired by the punk era that Westwood was so influenced by. Structurally, the floating steel planes acted as plinths, platforms and screens and aesthetically the raw textured steel with angular edges reflected Westwood’s urban background.

Dedicated to her later work, the second gallery had a more opulent and intimate feel; the sharp lines from the first gallery were replaced with curved walls and soft edges. The high ceiling was painted black to glorify the understated strength of Westwood’s clothes and the steel sheets used in this section were given a matt black finish for dramatic effect. Glass boxes were suspended from the ceiling to display some of Westwood’s most iconic shoes.

Following the progression of Westwood’s designs, the curved gallery came to fruition at the top of a ramp designed to showcase a remarkable ball gown. Three further ball gowns were displayed at this focal point; they were mounted on steel platforms and individually lit through oval holes in the dropped ceiling above.

The exhibition ended with a theatrical presentation, a ballgown placed in the centre of an oval-shaped ramp, which paid homage to Westwood’s revolutionary designs and legendary reputation.