Design Museum Research (Vivienne Westwood)

BRIEF PART 1: Design Museum research
Visit the Design Museum’s Women, Fashion and Power exhibition as a

stimulus for your research.

Choose an exhibit and dissect the effect it might have on the user. Consider, for example:

  •  What does the user want the item to communicate about them?
  •  Why would the user want to communicate this? (What might it 
reveal about them?)
  •  What does the object tell us about the designer and their own 
  •  Describe what the emotional journey might be for the user, from 
before first acquiring the item, to owning it, using it for the first time, using it subsequent times and final disposal (if applicable). Consider how this emotional journey can be meaningfully mapped. 
Explain your research findings through the production of:
  •  Visual data – drawings and photographs
  •  Written data – this should include critical and analytical reflection; 
E.g. How well has the product/ intervention succeeded in performing its function? How is/was it experienced by its intended users, or by other stakeholders? Has it been designed in response to human behaviour or characteristics or changed these through its inception? 
Part 1 Outcome: 1 board of exhibition response and analysis.


After visiting the museum’s Women, Fashion and Power exhibition I chose the Sex Pistols T-shirt, designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, customized by Johnny Rotten, late 1970s. I think a user wearing this clothing item would identify with the punk subculture at the time and would have an attitude of of rebellion and nonconformity with the mainstream like most subcultures. The user likely in the punk scene or simply a Sex Pistols fan would want unconventional clothing items such as this to help them identify with their beliefs and become embodiment of the punk anti-establishment relating back to the idea of consumption for self identification.

I think that this piece tells us a lot about the designers values by attempting to portray a sense of anti-establishment and its relation to the Punk subculture. I think the influence to this steams from Vivienne Westwoods earlier days when she was 16 and didn’t feel like she belonged in an art school because as she put it, ‘I didn’t know how a working-class girl like me could possibly make a living in the art world’. It is possible that her husband Malcom Mclaren was also a big influence with his liking for ‘using culture as a way of making trouble’. These two aspects are bound to have had an impact on Westwoods views of society and the way she interpreted this through her work.

The users experience when obtaining this clothing item was probably one of excitement and rebellion specially for its time, being fans of the Sex Pistols and/or belonging to the Punk subculture having a clothing item such as this added to their self identity. Its a clothing item that would probably hold a lot of emotional value to the user and would be kept even if just as a collectable after it has been worn out.

I think that this piece of design achieved its function by creating a powerful message and an ‘attempt to confront the older generation.’ The shirt reached it’s target efficiently in terms of design but from my research it seems that clothing items such as this one would have become too expensive for the casual ‘punk’ to afford and they would usually resort to creating their own clothes.



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