PHOTO: VIVIENNE WESTWOOD INSTAGRAM
The pioneering British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, who introduced punk and politics to the exclusive world of high fashion, passed away on December 29 at the age of 81. A Westwood spokesman confirmed that she died quietly and accompanied by her family in Clapham, South London.
The news of her death was announced in a statement on her official Instagram page. “Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London,” read a caption. “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better. She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.”
The statement continued, “Vivienne considered herself a Taoist. She wrote, ‘Tao spiritual system. There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life; it gives you such a sense of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you can live and therefore ought to be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.’ The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”
Throughout her seven-decade career, Westwood excelled as a fashion historian, despite the fact that she still has a place in fashion history. While her Empress Josephine dresses and profusion of corsets were inspired by 18th-century clothing, her billowing Pirate shirts, 1990s tartan derriere padding, and 1980s mini-crinis were all 17th-century-inspired garments. The most iconic fashion moments, such Naomi Campbell falling from purple python platforms on the catwalk for autumn/winter 1993 and a well almost Kate Moss eating ice cream while wearing a miniskirt, hat, and heels for spring/summer 1995, are also associated with Westwood. But before all this, who was Vivienne Westwood?
Vivienne Isabel Swire was born on April 8, 1941, in Tintwistle, Cheshire, to mother Dora, a greengrocer’s assistant, and father Gordon, a sausage factory worker, before the bustles, bustiers, bottom paddings, tartan, and tailoring. Before relocating to the London neighborhood of Harrow in 1957, where her parents managed a post office, she attended Glossop Grammar School. After taking a term of a silversmithing degree at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), Westwood decided she was intimidated by the art world and enrolled in a secretarial college. She eventually pursued teacher training.
She met Derek Westwood, an apprentice at the Hoover factory, during a dance in 1961, and they were married in 1962 when she was wearing her own design. Benjamin Westwood, their son born in 1963, was their only child together, although they divorced when he was three. Westwood had her second son, Joseph Corré, in 1967 after meeting Malcolm McLaren, who was then a student of art. Her two boys grew up together in South London, where Westwood worked as a primary school teacher. In 2007, Westwood admitted to The Guardian, “I was really a good teacher. I never loved the kids that other people thought were a pain in the rear, though. the little rebels
Let It Rock, a store offering gallant clothes and antiques from the 1950s, was established by Westwood and McLaren on the King’s Road in 1971. There, they created teddy boy pants, drape coats, and mohair sweaters before dressing the Sex Pistols, a 1970s punk band. At the same time, they started selling slogan T-shirts with colorful words fashioned from chicken bones, pants with front-to-back zips, and tops with tie-dyes that had been tramped on.
She began working at the Vienna School of Applied Art in the late 1980s, when she met fashion student Andreas Kronthaler. In 1992, they were married. The designer was renamed Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood when they joined under the Westwood label, but he was appointed creative director of the company in 2016. Westwood’s eponymous line offered couture, wedding, and men’s and women’s ready-to-wear designs
Westwood was one of the six most important fashion designers of the 20th century. Earlier on in her career fashion commentators hailed Westwood’s creations as the British counterpart to those of Christian Lacroix in Paris just a few years after her debut Paris show in 1983 and credited her with reviving the British fashion scene. Women’s Wear Daily founder John Fairchild, called her “the Alice in Wonderland of fashion” in his 1989 book Chic Savages.
Westwood is infamous for receiving her OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 while without wearing underwear. Talking about the infamous event, she recalled twisting her skirt, “I wished to show off my outfit by twirling the skirt,” she said. “It did not occur to me that, as the photographers were practically on their knees, the result would be more glamorous than I expected… I have heard that the picture amused the Queen.”
However, Westwood was elevated to the status of dame, and since then, and many A list celebrities have worn her designs including royals. For instance Miley Cyrus, wore a Westwood gown in 2018 when she married Liam Hemsworth. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (now Queen Consort), Princess Eugenie, and others have donned her creations. In recent times Blackpinks Lisa wore a stunning Vievienne Westwood to the Bulgari’s Aurora Awards.
Long before socal media, Vivienne Westwood has long used her runway as a political stage. In 2008 at her Autumn winter 2008 show, models held banners requesting fair judicial hearings for Guantánamo Bay detainees at her autumn/winter 2008 show, while she featured t-shirts with the slogan “I Am Not A Terrorist, Please Don’t Arrest Me” in her spring/summer 2006 collection.
Also advocating for climate change in the spring/summer 2013 exhibition. At other occasions, she has shown support for political organizations, environmental charities including Cool Earth and Greenpeace, the Occupy protests in 2011, US whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.