The Asics x Vivienne Westwood Collab is About to Drop – We Look At The Queen of Punk’s Best Collabs
Another day, another collab. But unlike many others, this one is truly gag-worthy. Dame Vivienne Isabel Westwood has worked with Japanese sportswear giant Asics on redesigning two of their trainer silhouettes, injecting them with true punk spirit like only she can. Originally seen as part of the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood SS19 catwalk show in Paris, the Gel-Mai Knit trainer got adorned with Westwood’s archival Squiggle print, originally used in her catwalk debut in 1981. Then covering pirate-like blouses and matching cotton trousers in contrasting colourways, the motif is now reimagined in a red and white combo and covering the sock part, putting the focus on the technical aspect of the shoe. Despite being part of Asics’ permanent of the collection, this particular shape is clearly a sportswear reflection of some of Westwood biggest-selling hits, including her signature pirate boots. The campaign imagery for the launch was created by a duo of long-term Ten Towers collaborators, stylist Anna Trevelyan and photographer Dexter Navy, bringing in the contemporary twist to the timeless attitude of unapologetic rebelliousness.
The second Asics shape Westwood reimagined is a recently re-launched noughties hit, the Gel-Kayano 5 OG. Originally released in 1999, this trainer was chosen for its classic shape, giving the team a blank canvas with a rich history that arguably defined sporty shoe styles of the past decade. With a rich, saturated colourway inspired by one of the original shades of the Squiggle print, this trainer might look the tamed one of the two, but in fact serves a lot of subtle Westwood hints. Both shoes have their back embroidered with the brand’s multi-coloured orb logo, making it recognisable even for the Westwood noobs. And the best part? You only have to wait until next Saturday, April 27th until they launch, in selected stores and online, both with Vivienne Westwood and Asics.
But this ain’t Dame’s first rodeo. In honour of this grand new launch, we dug into the rich Westwood archives to discover a long history of working with creative talent on designing unique products. Consider this your scholarly introduction into the best of Vivienne Westwood collabs through time.
Known for taking heritage and putting it on its head, Westwood’s focus has always been on making the best of the past relevant and new. Her Harris Tweed tailoring is a prime example – utilising high-quality textiles and subverting their conservative codes into something totally irreverent. This relationship even resulted in the previously mentioned Westwood orb logo, an enriched version of the Harris Tweed one. A textile story was also behind one of Westwood’s first official collabs. John Smedley is a British house known for their production of fine knitwear, dating all the way back to 1784. During the late 1980s, the Queen of Punk decided to start working with John Smedley on her fine knitwear, being one of the first to take what was completely classic, and give it a new meaning by putting it in on the catwalk. The two brands worked together for several seasons, using the superior textiles of Sea Island cotton and Merino wool to create her catwalk pieces. This collab was revisited for John Smedley’s 220th anniversary, when Westwood designed a full collection of Merino wool pieces adorned in her signatures, orb embroidery included.
While most shoes are known for their looks, Melissas are most known for their smell. The Brazilian footwear brand started off with French riviera-inspired rubber sandals in 1979, but it wasn’t until much later that they developed their bubblegum-like fragrance some of their shoes ooze with. They’ve worked with everyone from Jean Paul-Gaultier to the late Zaha Hadid, yet it’s Vivienne Westwood’s mind that’s been consistently part of their world since 2008. Ballet flats, platforms, boots and sandals – the ever-growing collection of Westwood x Melissa pieces has proven a commercial success for over a decade now. Some of them are Westwood’s best hits reworked in rubber, while others are items produced to create an entry level into the brand. This is what teenage dreams are made of.
Continuing on her conversation about subverting conservativeness, the Vivienne Westwood <3 project in 2013 saw the Queen of rebels working with Gloverall, Johnston’s of Elgin, Lock&Co, Globetrotter and Pantherella, all very classically British brands with a long history of upper-class association. Staying true to her style, Westwood introduced the middle-finger attitude to their signature, creating highly collectible investment pieces for all her fans via the one-off capsule collection. Globetrotter, most known for being the actual Queen’s (that’s HM Queen Elizabeth II) official luggage choice, got covered in tartan on the inside and strapped with squiggles and rivets on the out. Royal punk redefined.
The most important conversation point at the Haus of Westwood is the support to environmental activism. One of the leading names in UK’s movement urging to recognising the importance of climate change, Viv has been consistently working through fashion to raise awareness via her Climate Revolution campaign. In November 2013, she teamed up with everyone’s favourite 100% natural cosmetics brand Lush on finding an alternative to disposable wrapping paper. Once again, a variation of the Squiggle motif creeped up as a printed scarf made to be be used as a one-knot wrap, made out of 100% organic cotton fabric woven in Burnley, printed in Lancaster and sewn in London. Best of British indeed.
The evolution of fashion thanks to Vivienne Westwood doesn’t just stop with bringing punk into the mainstream. With the 430 King’s Road store in Chelsea, Westwood and her then partner Malcolm McLaren revolutionised the way luxury was experienced in the retail context. Under the name of World’s End, the duo opened an experiential space that wasn’t just about selling product, but also creating a space for people to become part of the story. A D.I.Y. sensibility and a heavy dose of music influences turned it into the space to be, evolving the whole of King’s Road as the next big London area. That time and place was captured in the capsule collection imagined and sold in collab with the American brand and retailer Opening Ceremony back in 2015. Digging up and modifying the most recognisable archive pieces was the way to go, as the Vivienne Westwood World’s End x Opening Ceremony sold out in express time. Such is the power of the World’s End.
In 2018, the collaboration game was topped by the news that Riccardo Tisci and Vivienne Westwood are working together on a Burberry x Westwood collection. The world squealed with excitement, us included. But it wasn’t until the collection dropped that we started drooling. All things covered in the Burbs check, infused with a 1970s-era Sex Pistols. This collaboration united generations of rebels (from Kate Moss and LadyFag to Josh Quinton and Sistren) including the royal couple aka Kronthaler and Westwood themselves in a campaign that will forever be remembered as the biggest collab of the year. Almost 50 years after her start in the industry, this woman is still as relevant as ever. And it’s down to her undying need for changing the world that keeps pushing the boundaries further. All these collabs, with many more to come. Here’s to Dame Viv!