An intimate insight into Vivienne Westwood at the Zebra One Gallery


- Credit: Archant

Fashion icon and her family and celebrity friends feature in exhibition of Opus collection

The designs of Vivienne Westwood are perpetually celebrated as some of the most valuable artefacts in fashion. However, rarely has the punk icon herself come under similar scrutiny.

But that all changed during London Fashion Week 2008, when the Vivienne Westwood Opus was launched. A series of stunning sepia photos taken on the world’s largest Polaroid camera, they capture the designer, her family and famous friends more intimately than anything before it. There is, though, just one problem.

“There were only 900 copies of the Opus ever made,” says Gabrielle de Plooy, who runs Hampstead’s Zebra One Gallery. “They were selling these signed books for about £1,400, amazing prices. And because they’re Vivienne Westwood, they’re of course all sold out.”

For one month, however, the public will have the chance to see the 23 photographic set in its entirety. From March 23, the Zebra One Gallery will be displaying the original prints on which the Opus books were based. Featuring not only Westwood, but some of the biggest names in fashion, music and art, de Plooy believes it’s one of the finest works ever produced.

“When you first look at these prints, you can’t believe the ensemble Westwood’s put together. People like Naomi Campbell, the Duchess of York, Bob Geldof, Kate Moss. There’s a fantastic one of Georgia Jagger too, who’s just done the Rimmel adverts. She’s going to be absolutely massive and this could already be one of the most significant shots she’ll ever have. These people are all so famous themselves, but they just jumped at the chance to work with Westwood.”

It is indeed a testament to Westwood that her relevance continues to grow, rather than dwindle in stature, even amongst the short-shelf-life world of celebrity. The Opus collection proves why. With stars like Jagger sporting shirts sloganeered with messages like “Blow Me Up”, its anti-propaganda message is entrenched not in the past but the present and future. Perhaps then it is fitting that some of the most touching images are those with her granddaughter.

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“She’s an amazing woman,” adds de Plooy. “Everyone of all ages loves her clothes. They’re just so rock chic. That’s why this gallery is perfect to host these pictures. It’s the leading photographic gallery in London, but it’s also pure rock glamour.”

It is, de Plooy believes, a spiritual home for the collection in every sense. An ex-facial model herself, de Plooy proudly reveals that her father was signed to Rack Records. Her history, in essence, was fashioned by rock ’n’ roll.

I ask her what her hopes are for the collection, which is not just to view, but very much to buy. Her answer leaves no uncertainty.

“Anyone in the know should buy the whole collection, it’s a no-brainer. You can buy them individually but anyone in their right mind should buy the entire thing. It was a sell-out show at the Serpentine when the Opus first came out. There’s no doubt – this will go down as one of Westwood’s greatest collections and we’re the only place that got the prints.”

n The Vivienne Westwood Opus polaroids are on show at the Zebra One Galleries from saturday until April 6.