Westwood studies the history of fashion back to its sources: its history fascinates her. However, if she has ever paid attention to modern fashion – a genuine question, given how singular her work has always appeared – it is only to buck against it and challenge received notions of modernity and beauty. When fashion surged towards minimalism, Westwood designed collections of rich baroque excess; when fashion wanted women to look powerful and masculine and rich in the mid-1980s, Westwood championed the disenfranchised, proposing clothes with soft curves and rounded shoulders, and declared: ‘In Italy they take expensive cloth and make it look boring, but I take basic fabric and make it look timeless. They just don’t understand what I’m trying to do.’ Later, in the mid-1990s, when fashion did understand – when other designers followed Westwood’s path in deconstructing clothes, shredding hems, distressing fabrics – she had already moved on, to tailoring and formality and a revival of interest in French haute couture. It was a volte-face that would, ultimately, shift the entire industry on its axis, again. Maybe Westwood didn’t even notice: though she has always been enamoured with the fashion of the past, from Hellenistic chitons through Tudor slashing and farthingales to the haute couture of mid-20th-century Paris, the work of her contemporaries is of little or no interest. It is a view that is not reciprocated. In 1989, the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, John Fairchild, cited Westwood as one of the six most important designers in the world in his book Chic Savages. ‘From them,’ he wrote, ‘all fashion hangs by a golden thread.’ Westwood, he argued, ‘is the designer’s designer, watched by intellectual and far-out designers … she is copied by the avantgarde French and Italian designers because she is the Alice in Wonderland of fashion and her clothes are wonderfully mad’. At that point, Westwood was the only one of Fairchild’s six who was not a multi-millionaire; she was also the only woman.