British designer Vivienne Westwood has said that "we haven't got time to talk about fashion" in light of the climate crisis, and is instead calling for a ban on private land ownership with her One World Rent campaign.
In a talk held at the V&A museum during London Design Festival, Westwood spoke about her "sustainability revolution". She ignored addressing fashion in favour of proposing a radical economic model.
"We haven't got time to talk about fashion at the moment," said Westwood as she opened the talk. "There is a need to transfer to a new economy, because the one we've got is killing us."
Westwood proposes an economic model in which no-one is able to own land privately. The idea forms the basis of the fashion designer's One World Rent initiative, which is at the heart of her climate revolution campaign.
"There really is only one way to save the world, and that is a rent on land," said Westwood. "We're calling it 'One World Rent'."
In the proposed system, land would be held by and rented from a "responsible government who hold it in democratic trust on behalf of nature and of ourselves".
"We have to go back to saying that land belongs to nobody. Everything that nature gives us free cannot be privately owned," she said.
"When I say land, I'm writing it with an asterisk – land* – because it means the biosphere, including humans, and their cleverness, as well as the ocean and airwaves and the treasure under the ground," she explained.
Westwood has created a system of symbols used throughout her manifesto that stand in place of certain key words.
For instance, her slogan One World Rent is illustrated with the number 1, a spiral for world, and an asterisk for rent – with this asterisk also standing for hope, according to the designer.
To publicise the initiative she has transferred this graphic system onto a pack of playing cards, which act as a visual representation of her campaign.
On the back of each card is a photograph of Westwood at four years old, surrounded by the words "BUY LESS", "One World Rent", "HOPE" and "TERROR", as well as sketchy markings and doodles of a heart, a penis and a dollar sign.
Westwood is planning to use these playing cards as the basis for an art exhibition, which she said she is organising in a bid to raise £100 million to help the rainforest.
The designer has also created a banner to accompany the cards, which she claims will be sold for £1 million to raise money for the cause.
At the centre of the banner is a drawing of two snakes eating each others' tails, and thereby forming a circle or loop that represents the economy and the climate.
Both the cards and banner address what Westwood calls the "rot dollar" – her term for a financial system dependant on overconsumption, something she believes we have to change.
"Mostly, we buy things we don't need," said Westwood. "We have our habits of comfort. If we were to do without, for example, our car – as we easily could do in London – we could better engage with the world instead of riding over it in comfort."
According to the designer, this consumerist behaviour will eventually lead to mass extinction.
"Mass extinction will be inevitable," said Westwood. "And when I say mass extinction, I mean there will be nobody left on this planet."
This is a view shared by MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, who told Dezeen that while we don't have the power to stop our extinction, we do have the power to leave a legacy so that the next dominant species will remember humankind with respect.
In addition to transferring to a new economy, Westwood's "solution" to the climate crisis also involves more immediately achievable actions such as following the "three R's": reduce, reuse and recycle – in that order of priority.
"It is not good enough to just put stuff in the recycling bin and carry on living like we do, we have to be serious. It's important to be specific," she said.
She envisions these solutions being enforced by a coalition government formed of designers, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which she would also be part of, alongside members of climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, who are currently leading two weeks of global protest.
Westwood's theories on land ownership and the rot dollar are embodied in her Spring Summer 2020 collection, called No Man's Land.
Featuring the designer's characteristically graphic prints and bold colours, the premise of the collection urges people to buy fewer better-quality clothes.
"We are using this as an opportunity to show our best clothes," reads a passage on the brand's website about the collection. "Fashion and activism work together for me."
"The future is quality not quantity," it continues. "Less is more sustainable."
In addition to reducing her collections by half, Westwood's new line will be produced with as little waste as possible, by reusing leftover fabric, dead stock and discarded materials.