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2024-05-06 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine When the Met Ball was Fun (and Politically Charged)

When the Met Ball was Fun (and Politically Charged)

The night I sat on the floor with Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

Way back in May 2006, The Met Ball was a truly New York-centric party. The red carpet was populated by fashion stars, not influencers and reality TV provocateurs. There wasn’t a Kardashian in sight. That night I showed up in black tie and had one of the most action-packed style moments of my life: I spent almost an hour with the late, great Dame Vivienne Westwood – the outrageous, outspoken fashion designer and punk icon.

As guests like Anna Wintour and Sienna Miller traipsed post-dinner through the hallowed galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I ambushed Westwood, who was dressed to thrill in a multi-layered mash-up of rose colored lace and crushed gold crinoline-like skirt; her tangerine hair spiked with crystal encrusted devil horns. The theme was “Anglomania” and Westwood undisputedly reigned at the event. I knew that Westwood was politically outspoken and that the case of Leonard Peltier (a Native American activist who was convicted in 1977 in the murder of two FBI agents that many believed he did not commit) was a cause she cared deeply about. I asked Westwood to chat about Peltier and she grabbed my hand and we plopped down on the marble floor of a gallery. Westwood asked me to help unlace her elaborate red platform shoes (“these things are killing me” she moaned) and when guests and fans approached to say hello, she waved them away with “Sorry, I am quite busy right now.”).

Vivienne Westwood at The Met Ball’s “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” in 2013. Westwood wears a badge with the face of Bradley Manning, the soldier at the center of the Wikileaks controversy.

Westwood told me she had been handing out petitions for Peltier’s clemency all night. “I brought about 20,” she said proudly. “I gave one to Jennifer Lopez – I hope she’ll sign it. Pamela Anderson was brilliant when I met her. She said, ‘Give me the petition. I know all about this.’ I gave it to some models and to Duran Duran, who I know quite well. Simon Le Bon is terribly upset about all of this, as well.” Like a true punk princess, Westwood cared more about political action than who was wearing what designer frock. “I’m trying to collect VIP signatures because all the legal avenues are closed,” she continued. “It’s horrendous to have your life taken away from you. Can you imagine? This is the kind of thing that’s happening in our world. You get imprisoned, and nobody will tell you what you did wrong or how long you’re going to stay there. It’s chilling.”

Westwood sadly died at 81 years-old in London on December 29th, 2022 and Leonard Peltier remains behind bars. On February 6, 2023, Peltier made another plea for clemency. His case – always close to Westwood’s heart (she was never without a “Free Leonard Peltier pin) remains hotly contested. -PETER DAVIS

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