Legendary fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood has teamed up with Hong Kong cultural entrepreneur Adrian Cheng to reach out to young Chinese consumers about climate change, with a politically charged retrospective and art exhibition inside Shanghai’s K11 Art Mall.
Get A Life! takes visitors on a journey through Westwood’s evolution as both an iconic designer and activist, with outfits from her catwalk campaigns as well as important archive collections like “Save The Rainforest” and “Mirror The World”. The exhibition also features artwork by seven Chinese artists and an artist group, including Sun Xun, Wu Junyong, Zhang Ruyi, Yu Honglei, Wang Congyi, Nathan Zhou and Zhu Xi.
GOOD TROUBLE: How did the project first come about?
ADRIAN CHENG: I’ve known Vivienne for a long time and we share an affinity for art, but it was during a meeting in 2013, when she shared her views on climate change, that things got interesting. We began to discuss what we could do together on climate change, how we could start a cross-culture dialogue in China, and how the message could make a lasting, educational impact. This was around the time when we launched our Shanghai K11 Art Mall, which houses a 3000sqm museum for one-of-a-kind exhibitions. So I thought why not create an exhibition, using art and fashion as a compelling further draw, to inspire people to talk more about the interconnecting relationships between fashion, art and the world in which we live.
It’s hard for people outside China to understand the impact of an event like this, especially in a commercial context. This is unique, right?
Visiting museums and galleries isn't part of China’s DNA yet but there is a huge appetite for learning and – especially among millennials – an insatiable curiosity to experience and be inspired by creativity. Our merging of subject matter and creative disciplines bridges that gap. Around this exhibition, we’re also hosting more than 20 talks, workshops and tours for the general public each weekend - with topics traversing sustainable design, recyclable materials, mending fashion pieces - all under the theme of Eco-Friendliness x Fashion. With Get A Life!, we have fused fashion and art, through the lens of activism and then K11’s hybrid space – art and commerce – makes it very immersive. Visitors are flocking to see the exhibition but they can also shop, eat, learn skills and experience artworks throughout the destination.
Tell us more about the The Artisanal Movement that you founded. What’s the concept and what are your future plans?
I believe in the power of creativity – that everyone is an artisan, that we can all appreciate creativity and the fine details in life. The Artisanal Movement encompasses all aspects of making today: from design, art and craft to lifestyle, exhibitions, interiors and fashion. What the movement promotes and what my team and I are doing in all our projects is to collect, connect and collide - be it ideas, traditions, people and creations.
The movement also operates in an ecosystem that connects wide audiences to craftspeople. In 2017, the movement will touch on different areas including fashion, architecture and design. For example, we’ll be launching a museum-standard furniture collection I co-designed with a famous Japanese designer, and the prototypes will be produced by a master craftsman in wood. The K11 museum-retail concept that is a key platform for The Artisanal Movement will also expand to three other Chinese cities this year: Guangzhou, Shenyang and Wuhan.
Do you think China has the chance to really take the lead on environmental issues, given the near-term political situation in the US?
I believe sustainability and protecting the environment is a global issue, and it’s a collective effort. Get A Life! and our satellite initiatives are ways to inspire and engage audiences and pose questions and prompt debate: can fashion be the vehicle that changes our environment? So we are addressing these issues in our own small way, which hopefully will lead to bigger things.
Find out more about Chi K11
Get involved with Vivienne Westwood's Climate Revolution
Writer, editor and Super/Collider founder, based in Hong Kong.