10 Questions for Vivienne Westwood

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Nancy Coste / Corbis

When did you realize that you wanted to be in the fashion industry?
Laura Buendia, REEDLEY, CALIF.

I didn't want to be a fashion designer, and for a good half of my career I didn't like it. I always wanted to do other things. I always wanted to read and do intellectual things. I started to do it to help my [then] partner Malcolm McLaren, because I could always make things. It was only about 15 years ago that my husband, whom I work with now and who designs as much as I do, said to me, "You have to like it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be doing it."

What is the greatest fashion faux pas?
Andrew Y.H. Sun, LOS ANGELES

It's to be a follower of fashion. If you wear clothes that don't suit you, you're a fashion victim. You have to wear clothes that make you look better.

How do you address the issue that in today's society so many clothes are tailored to fit women who wear a size zero and not a size 12?
Lei Lani De Santiago, AUSTIN, TEXAS

If you're too big to fit into fashion, then you just have to do your own fashion.

Have you ever had to forfeit any of your design ideals to stay in business?
Lea Fast, VIENNA

I'm very lucky, and I haven't. I own my own company, so I've never had businessmen telling me what to do or getting worried if something doesn't sell. I've always had my own access to the public, because I started off making my clothes for a little shop and so I've always had people buying them. I could always sell a few, even if I couldn't sell a lot, and somehow my business grew because people happened to like it. I'm in a fortunate position.

Do you think you will ever collaborate with a fast-fashion company, or will your fashion remain a luxury?

The time is gone. At one time I would have been prepared to do that, but my business has grown too big now, and it's a full-time job. In fact, I would like to do less work than I do at the moment. Anyway, I always try to make my clothes affordable, and they actually are affordable. I've got this shop, World's End, that has incredibly good prices.

What is the biggest issue that fashion faces today?
Mauricio Tortosa, NEW YORK CITY

I just think people buy too many clothes, whether they love fashion or whether they just want 12 T shirts, all different colors, and 12 pairs of jeans all the same. People look a mess because they're buying too many clothes; they're not thinking. If you do buy something new, if you've got the money to afford it, then buy a beautiful piece.

What is the essence of true beauty?
Joshua Granath, SYDNEY

I'm always attracted to people who interest me. They've got to be people who are really true to themselves somehow, and who are always trying to do something that makes their life more interesting, or better, or something for somebody else. They're interested in people.

Do you ever regret the swastika on the "Destroy" shirt?
Elizabeth Burke, SAN DIEGO

No, I don't, because we were just saying to the older generation, "We don't accept your values or your taboos, and you're all fascists."

If you were to choose a person from the arts, cinema or history to represent your brand, who would it be?
Charlotte Hall, NEW YORK CITY

We just did our next advertising campaign with Pamela Anderson, and she's a wonderful woman. She's very wild.

How would you dress First Lady — elect Michelle Obama for the Inauguration Day ceremony?
Emmanuel Vaughn, LOS ANGELES

Well, I've got so much to choose from. I'd just say, "Come into my Aladdin's cave, let me give you whatever you want." She seems really great, and she's good-looking and she's a great model for clothes. She's got her own style and always looks good. I'd love to be able to help her look even better.