Vivienne Westwood’s Activist Playing Cards Will Be Sold to Raise Funds for Greenpeace

Prints of playing cards created by the late designer will be auctioned by Christie's this June to fund climate activism.

Woman with blonde hair and large white dress stands in front of hanging lines of playing cards
The designer often used playing cards in her designs and campaigns. Photo Hedvig Jenning/Courtesy Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood didn’t just inject punk-rock aesthetics and anti-establishment sentiments into her clothing lines. The late British designer and activist, who died in 2022, was also known for putting her rebellious spirit toward causes ranging from climate change to nuclear disarmament.

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Now a set of playing card prints designed by Westwood to bring attention to the planet’s most pressing challenges is heading to auction with Christie's. The limited-edition cards, which were signed by the designer, have an estimate of £30,000 ($38,000) to £50,000 ($62,000) and will be sold to benefit the environment organization Greenpeace. Scheduled for June 25, the auction was announced today (April 8) to mark what would have been Westwood’s 83rd birthday.

“It was Vivienne’s ambition prior to her death to raise a significant amount of money for Greenpeace to help them protect our rainforests and oceans and save the planet from climate change,” said the Vivienne Foundation, which oversees Westwood’s artwork and helped bring the posthumous project to fruition alongside London printmakers Red Breast Editions, in a statement. “Throughout her lifetime, Vivienne used her voice to lead a relentless fight for justice.”

Three playing cards with images of a punk-looking woman, a red and green map and a couple.
A selection of the prints that will be included in the upcoming auction. Courtesy Sotheby's

Westwood was an avid force in creative advocacy. In 2007, she published her Active Resistance to Propaganda manifesto, which presented culture as necessary to saving the planet from forces like climate change. At the 2012 London Paralympics, the pioneering designer introduced her Climate Revolution campaign, which urged nonprofits and individuals to unify and call for political movement on issues like environmental destruction. “I want you to help me save the world,” she said at the time. “I can’t do it on my own.”

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She was particularly vocal about the vital importance of sustainability in the fashion industry. In addition to urging younger designers to use recycled materials, Westwood introduced ethical sourcing initiatives and emphasized cutting down on fabric waste. She also incorporated her passion for the environment into her designs, like her “Save the Arctic” shirt, donned by the likes of Kate Moss and Pamela Anderson, which was inspired by a Greenpeace trip to witness the effects of oil companies in the Arctic. Her namesake label has continued to promote environmentally-friendly policies since Westwood’s passing, having earlier this year introduced a remote work model to cut down on carbon emissions.

How Vivienne Westwood used playing cards as a form of activism

In 2017, Westwood brought her passions of art and activism together when she designed the aforementioned playing cards with text and graphics representing what she saw as the most pressing global issues. She continued to work on the cards until her passing. The iteration that will be auctioned by Christie’s draws from the original project and features ten prints on Hahnemühle Museum Etching paper presented in a hand-embroidered portfolio box. One card features NASA’s geothermal global map to show us the dangers of climate change; another card pictures Vivienne and her husband Andreas dressed up as Adam and Eve watching the planet’s destruction.

The idea to use the cards to raise funds first came up in conversations between the designer and John Sauven, former executive director of Greenpeace U.K. “I talked to Vivienne about how the works of art for her pack of playing cards, representing the pressing problems of our world with the mantra ‘Collect the cards. Connect the cards,’ could be auctioned to fund the causes she supported,” he said, noting that the designer’s activism infiltrated every aspect of her life from fashion and art to education. “Vivienne was well known as a rebel for most of her life but rarely without a cause,” he said.

Vivienne Westwood’s Activist Playing Cards Will Be Sold to Raise Funds for Greenpeace