The dowager queen of British fashion Dame Vivienne Westwood lectured at King’s on her campaign to promote green energy.
On Tuesday evening she gave a keynote lecture on Intellectuals Unite. This campaign seeks to raise awareness about the world’s ecological crises and to accelerate the transition to a green economy.
Westwood’s mission for the evening was simple: to encourage as many people as possible to switch to green electricity. Waiting for each attendee was a small placard on the desk before each seat. The front displayed a map showing how much of the world would become uninhabitable once rising temperatures reached a tipping point.
“It’s a map that is published by NASA. It is public information,” she said.
In the past, she recalled, Westwood never knew what to say to people who asked her what they as individuals could do to help the environment. Switching to green electricity is an answer to that question.
She also emphasised the importance of cutting plastic from everyday life, encouraging people to “try to live without plastic for a week.”
The event was hosted by King’s Environment Society. Shona Rawlins, co-president of the Society, explained that the campaign name “Intellectuals Unite” was about “making a positive change.”
Rawlins added: “It should be about self-educating, critical thinking, looking at what is important to us and what’s important to the world, not just accepting the status quo.”
During the Q&A session, a handful of attendees challenged Westwood’s assertions, while others offered their own suggestions for working toward a green economy.
Westwood’s warning about the dangers of consumerism was met with some scepticism. Two audience members questioned how the head of an expensive fashion brand could claim to be critical of consumerism or business.
“As a businesswoman and fashion designer who sells 700-pound handbags,” one attendee put it, “how do we prevent consumerism whilst we buy things?”
Westwood’s response emphasised the need for responsible consumerism and ethical business practices.
“Buy less, choose well, make it last,” she said. She spoke of wanting to scale back the range of products her company makes, hoping to focus on quality over quantity.
Despite forays into what some would consider to be controversial territory, Westwood’s basic message about the importance of green energy remained at the forefront of the lecture.
“Here we are, fighting to save the world,” she said. “It’s possibly really easy to do. But it depends on people power.”
Photography by Naïké Kaboré