'Inappropriate' Westwood show finally gets a run

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am

An acclaimed fashion retrospective of designs by legendary British designer Vivienne Westwood will go on display in Hong Kong in December after being delayed for three years because the government rejected it as inappropriate to local tastes.

After opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London in 2004, A Life in Fashion went on show over the next three years in Shanghai, Taipei, Bangkok, Tokyo, Canberra and cities in the United States.

It features more than 140 designs and 70 objects selected from V&A's collection and Westwood's archives.

Hong Kong could have been the first stop on the exhibition's tour after London, because the museum pitched the idea to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in 2005. But the exhibition was rejected.

'We did not think Vivienne Westwood and the other proposals appealed to the taste of Hong Kong people,' a government spokesman told the South China Morning Post in 2005. The comment drew severe criticism.

A V&A spokesman said that in 2005, the museum discussed the exhibition with various institutions in Hong Kong because it was travelling to Shanghai and Taipei in the same year, and a stopover in Hong Kong would have been convenient.

Swire Island East has now succeeded in securing the exhibition for Hong Kong.

Babby Fung Siu-ling, head of marketing for Swire Island East, said Swire approached the V&A last October about the Westwood retrospective. She declined to comment on whether the Leisure and Cultural Services Department had made an inappropriate judgment on Hong Kong people's tastes.

'Vivienne Westwood is an influential figure, not just in the fashion world but also in the context of pop culture,' Ms Fung said. 'We believe this exhibition will have a big impact on the Hong Kong community.'

A V&A spokesman said: 'We are always keen to show our exhibitions in Hong Kong.

'In the case of the Vivienne Westwood exhibition, it's a good opportunity because she is a popular designer well recognised by Hong Kong audiences.'

Ms Fung declined to reveal how much it will cost to bring the Westwood retrospective to Hong Kong, but said: 'It's one of our most significant financial investments in a cultural project.'

The 67-year-old Westwood is best known for revolutionising the fashion world and pop culture with her advocacy of the punk movement in the 1970s.

She is also a political activist. In 2006, she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in recognition of her achievements.

The free Westwood exhibition will run from December 1 to January 31 at Cornwall House, Taikoo Place.

Westwood and V&A director Mark Jones will attend the opening.