ICONIC British designer Vivienne Westwood extended her empire from fashion to food last weekend, with the opening in Shanghai of her first cafe.
Westwood, 74, began her fashion career in 1971 and made her name in the 1970s as one of the creators of punk fashion — incorporating everything from razor blades and dog collars to tartan. She has gone on to become a grand dame of British fashion, influencing many designers over the years.
Although well into her eighth decade, Westwood shows little sign of slowing down, as her new Shanghai venture demonstrates.
The cafe, composed by two themed areas and with seating for 60 customers, is in Westwood’s flagship fashion store on Huaihai Road.
All the details — from dining concept to interior design — have been created by Westwood, who says she hopes it represents her life story.
Stepping inside, the first thing to catch the eye is an area called the shooting studio, where a classic English wooden table is placed in front of a white wall that curves to the floor, decorated with catwalk spotlights.
It provides the perfect opportunity to make the most of the professional lighting and background to strike a pose and act out those secret supermodel fantasies.
The design is inspired by the shooting space backstage at Westwood’s shows, where the perfectionist designer makes final adjustments to her designs — from changing the way to tie a scarf to using accessories to add a last-minute flourish.
Then the models are photographed for the record before they go onstage onto the runway.
Meanwhile, the tearoom area seems to take the customer into an ornate panelled dining room, complete with Old Masters hanging in gilded frames.
But things are not quite what they seem; it’s merely a 3D-style backdrop, based on a photograph taken in the Wallace Collection museum in London.
Renowned for its collection of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to 19th centuries, Westwood used to go to the Wallace Collection seeking inspiration.
A vintage chandelier and furniture add to the stately home feel.
The two areas are connected by a glass partition featuring a giant 13-hour “world’s end” clock, complete with hands that move anti-clockwise.
This pays tribute to Westwood’s World’s End London store, which featured a 13-hour clock hung outside.
Everyone naturally has a rebellious clock like this in their heart, insists Westwood.
Anyway, that’s the design. What about the food and drink on offer?
The cafe serves classical three-tier afternoon tea set to emphasize the brand’s English DNA. The teaware — from teapots to cups — are customized with Westwood’s signature red and green tartan design. The same design can also be found on the Vivienne Westwood cupcakes on offer.
Freshly brewed coffee — with beans sourced from Seattle-based Pacific Coffee — and ice cream are also available.
But to be honest, compared with other cafes, the menu seems lacking in options.
Yet it’s also fair to say that customers will be going there primarily for an insight into Westwood’s creativity, rather than for anything as everyday as tea, coffee and cakes.