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Lorna Tucker: The Story Behind My Controversial Vivienne Westwood Documentary

© Image courtesy of Dogwoof

This Friday, Lorna Tucker’s controversial documentary about fashion firebrand Vivienne Westwood is released. Here she tells Rhiannon Evans about their high-profile spat

You’d think the UK release of your first feature film would be one of the most terrifying moments of your life, but Lorna Tucker has already had a rough ride over her new documentary, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.

It was the eve of the global premiere at Sundance Film Festival when all hell broke loose. 'Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist has been made and produced by a third party and, as it stands, isn’t endorsed by Vivienne Westwood,’ said a statement released by the design house. ‘Lorna Tucker asked to film Vivienne’s activism... but there’s not even five minutes of activism in the film... It’s a shame because the film is mediocre, and Vivienne and Andreas [her husband] are not.’

Image courtesy of Dogwoof

Lorna worked on the documentary with Vivienne, who she counted as a friend and inspiration, for five years. In it, she charts Westwood’s life from trainee art teacher to British fashion icon, via her later-life interest in environmental activism. As the film’s released, Lorna seems philosophical about January’s schism. ‘When she watched it, I didn’t get the sense she didn’t like it. She was just a bit upset because I think she felt it would be more focused on her environmentalism,’ she tells Grazia. ‘I didn’t think we’d fallen out. She’d given creative feedback and I’d said no, which I don’t think she’s used to hearing, so I knew she was angry. I wasn’t quite expecting the statement at Sundance. But right now, I want to give her some space... Hopefully, with a bit of distance, she’ll realise I did make a film that honoured everything we discussed and she can either go on disliking me... or I’m here and I love her to bits and I’m inspired by her,’ she adds. ‘At some point hopefully we’ll bump into each other, she won’t punch me and we’ll be able to hang out and have a cup of tea.’

The pair bonded after Lorna made a video for a rap song in which Westwood featured. It was the warm, interesting woman she encountered off-camera she felt compelled to capture. But Lorna says she couldn’t gloss over reality. ‘She was trying to change the company... but the fashion industry is one of the most destructive in the world. When you create a business and you grow it to the size she has, I don’t think it can be 100% environmentally sound, or ethical.’

Lorna Tucker © Richard Stow

Lorna is still inspired by Westwood’s efforts. But the film-maker and subject diverge on how best to galvanise others – Lorna believes that by arousing interest in and respect for Westwood as a woman through her whole life story, people will follow her environmental message. ‘I think to truly inspire someone you have to show they’re human too. If I just made a puff piece, blowing smoke up her butt, going, “Isn’t Vivienne amazing, she’s making her company sustainable and she’s Joan of Arc and she’s great,” would we really be inspired? If I’d made a film just about her activism – which it was never going to be, ever – I think people switch off because they don’t want to be told what to do.’

The director, now in her thirties, no longer believes you can make an honest documentary that the subject likes. Which is why it’s so interesting that this summer she’ll start directing a self-penned story, based on her own life. At 15, Lorna had run away from home and was begging for money to buy heroin at Charing Cross Station when she was scouted by a model agency. She admits it’s tough writing and directing her own story. ‘I’m doing it because the situation hasn’t changed. If anything, there are more kids on the streets. But it is scary that every person out there will have a judgement on me.’

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is out 23 March. www.viviennewestwoodmovie.com