The Necklace We All Can’t Get Enough Of
Instagram influencers, TikTokers such as Ellie Zeiler and Vinnie Hacker, and seemingly every girl on your Pinterest feed is wearing it. With its string of pearls and sparkling orb charm, the Vivienne Westwood Mini Bas Relief Choker has become the newest must-have in any fashion-forward person’s jewelry collection.
The choker is currently available in Rhodium Crystal Pearl (a silver color), Gold-Tone, and Pink Gold-Tone. The charm in the middle, which is also the Vivienne Westwood logo, is a combination of the Sovereign’s Orb and the rings of Saturn. It is studded with either Swarovski, topaz, or violet crystals, respectively, and is actually centered in faux, not real, pearls.
Over the past few months, we’ve started to see more and more people wearing this necklace. Zeiler very frequently wears it in her posts. Madison Beer has one. So do TikTokers Noah Miller and Riley Black. Bella Hadid wore the designer’s Three Row Pearl Necklace on New Year’s Eve.
The choker has also become a common sighting on Pinterest boards and VSCO feeds, often worn layered with other jewelry. And, of course, it’s also been the star of many TikToks, which have helped fuel its growing popularity.
But why has the choker become so popular (and why this design in particular, as opposed to the many other Vivienne Westwood styles)?
Well, it fits quite perfectly with the fashion and aesthetics that are so in right now, which can be described as a mix of both preppy and classic styles. People are loving simple yet elegant looks, tennis skirts, dainty jewelry, and the colors cream, white, and brown. It also fits into the revival of the Y2K aesthetic, which emphasizes glamour and bling. It’s classy and even opulent and can be worn with a layered sweater and collared shirt, or glammed up with a sparkly dress and hoop earrings. But since no one has really been going out to parties and events the past few months (or, uh, we’d sure hope that was the case), people are also wearing it as an everyday staple, the perfect item to make a sweatshirt and leggings look just a bit more put-together.
It’s even got a little bit of Los Angeles charm, which is perhaps why so many influencers have been wearing it. Think of the Beverly Hills hotel, fancy matcha lattes, and the Sunset Strip.
And while the Mini Bas Relief style is the most popular right now (likely because of its versatility and simple yet elegant look), there are many other necklaces that also feature the designer’s signature orb for those who want to spice things up a little bit, as well as bracelets and earrings.
A piece by Vivienne Westwood, in particular, is an interesting thing to have become so trendy among teens. Westwood is known for her influential work within the 1970s UK punk scene along with Malcolm McLaren, who was at the time both her partner and manager of the punk rock band the Sex Pistols. She was known for making statements and breaking norms in the fashion industry, and she sold her designs at her and McLaren’s boutique, which was called SEX (the store remains, now called Worlds End). These designs included bold graphic tees and bondage pants, and she would use chains, safety pins, and other items of punk fashion.
She has also been known for her “revival of the corset,” in which she put a punk twist on the classic Victorian garment. Her newest designs have been worn by celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Rowan Blanchard, Alexa Demie, and Sofia Richie. The greater fashion community has even been inspired to make their own Westwood-inspired corsets.
In recent years, Westwood has also been known for her work as a climate and social activist. Earlier this month, she wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in which she talks about the harmful effects of companies and corporations, sustainability, and starting the website Climate Revolution. She has also coined the phrase “Buy Less, Dress Up,” which was also the title of her Spring-Summer 2019 collection. “One of the most important things I have probably ever said is: Buy less, choose well, make it last. It’s all about quality, not quantity,” she states.
However, the Mini Bas Relief Necklace, or rather, the hype that has built up around it as a trendy item, ironically doesn’t seem too aligned with Westwood’s vision of buying less. Instead, it has become consumer culture’s latest obsession, something you just have to have, whether you love it or because everyone else does. It’s become a status symbol, much like a Louis Vuitton bag or a Gucci belt.
And because of the relatively high price tag of the item, at $195, many are instead choosing to buy inauthentic versions from sellers like Etsy, Amazon, or AliExpress, where they can be as little as just a few dollars. In this way, what would be an investment piece (at least for the average consumer, to whom this necklace would be a significant expense) has become not a timeless classic but a trend. Likely, although the cheaply-made duplicates of the real necklace will show up in plenty of TikToks and Instagrams in the near future, it will soon be designated to the back of the closet, or even into the trash, where it will soon sit in a landfill with all the other pieces of fast-fashion that have been killed off.
The choker has become tangled up in the world of consumption, luxury, and capitalism — the opposite of what Westwood’s current work and activism focuses on. As one TikTok commenter said on a video about the necklace, “This is so ironic because Vivienne Westwood is built on anti fashion.”
The internet’s love of this necklace is a case study in how, in today’s world, capitalism, the fashion industry, and the degradation of the environment are so extremely intertwined. Even if a designer intends to step outside of consumer culture, their customers often have no escape. And in the age of online shopping and social media, consumer culture is only accelerated by our viewing of others’ material goods online and our desire to showcase our own — to be “in” with the trends.
Despite this, the Vivienne Westwood choker has become a classic piece of jewelry and hopefully one that, despite the extremely fast cycling of trends online, will continue to be worn in future years.
Furthermore, as Vivienne Westwood becomes increasingly popular and well-known amongst young people, hopefully, they will also look to follow her work regarding climate change and be inspired to protect the planet and its people, both through fashion and in other ways. Online, the classic orb logo is described as “‘taking tradition (the Orb) into the future (Saturn ring)’ thus figuratively describing the work of Vivienne Westwood.” Hopefully, this can serve as a metaphor for our shaping of the world in years to come, in which we can use culture, fashion, and our unique human creativity to create a better world.