British Fashion Icon And Designer Vivienne Westwood Passed Away At The Age of 81!
Vivienne Westwood, a British fashion icon and designer, passed away at 81. According to a formal statement from her eponymous company, she died quietly on Thursday at her home in London, surrounded by her family.
She was referred to as “the Queen of Extreme” and “the high priestess of punk” by the media. She was a cherished figure in the fashion world that inspired and pushed the business’s limits up until her passing.
After winning the Queen’s Order of the British Empire in 1992, she performed a spin for photographers without wearing culottes. She appeared on the front cover of Tatler magazine in April 1989 while wearing a suit by Aquascutum that she said was made for Margaret Thatcher.
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In all honesty, Westwood didn’t give a damn. She ascended dishonorably to the revered status of a British national treasure as the oldest of ingénues with occasionally orange-tinted hair and an alabaster complexion.
According to Jon Savage’s influential book “England’s Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock,” Westwood allegedly claimed, “I have an in-built perversity. A type of in-built clock which always reacts against everything orthodox.”
When Was Vivienne Westwood Born?
On April 8, 1941, Vivienne Isabel Swire was born in Derbyshire, England. Her father came from a family of shoemakers, while her mother worked as a weaver at nearby cotton mills. As a youngster, she started sewing clothing for herself.
After attending Harrow Art School for a term, she began working as a primary school teacher before marrying Derek Westwood, a manufacturing worker, in 1962.
But when she divorced her husband and began seeing Malcolm McLaren in 1965, everything changed.
She told Newsweek in 2004: “I felt as if there were so many doors to unlock, and he held the key to all of them.
Without their collaborative effort, it is impossible to picture 1970s Britain. Westwood assisted in creating a visual grammar for the punk movement from a store on London’s King’s Road, where McLaren managed the Sex Pistols.
Although the store changed names a few times (Let It Rock, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, Sex, Seditionaries), its presence on the street remained. In 2012, Westwood told Time magazine that “it transformed how people looked.” I had messianic ideas about punk, trying to disrupt the system somehow.
Her wardrobe included fetishistic bondage clothing, enormous platform shoes, and slogan T-shirts. A t-shirt depicting the Queen with a safety pin through the royal lip was famously marketed by Seditionaries.
Eventually, Westwood moved on. Westwood debuted her first catwalk line with McLaren in 1981 when she was 40. The gender-neutral attire brought to mind the heyday of piracy, dandies, highwaymen, and buccaneers. Other British designers, including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, later adopted Westwood’s provocative study of traditional tailoring methods.
— Flaviana Matata (@FlavianaMatata) December 30, 2022
Inspiring sources for Westwood during the decade included Keith Haring, “Blade Runner,” and the French Foreign Legion.
She created dresses for ladies with breasts and hips (ask Nigella Lawson or Marion Cotillard, who both wore Westwood to dramatic effect), flesh-colored tights with modest fig leaves, and her unique corsetry worn as outerwear. She also experimented with Harris tweed and tartan.
In 1989, John Fairchild, the editor-in-chief of Women’s Wear Daily at the Time, gave his approval. Along with Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Christian Lacroix, and Emanuel Ungaro, in his opinion, she was one of the six most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. On his list, Westwood was the only woman, Brit, and fashion designer whose name did not already command millions of dollars in sales. (According to Jane Mulvagh’s 1998 biography, “Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life,” she was “essentially bankrupt” in 1989 and still residing in an ex-council flat in South London.)
In a 1990 documentary, fashion journalist Peter York summed her up as follows: “The entire class and sex debate, as well as her special preoccupation with the Queen, are all stereotypically British, and they all serve as the inspiration for her work. These could not have been created elsewhere.”
When Did She Get Married?
Andreas Kronthaler, a design student from Austria who was 25 years of Westwood’s junior, wed in 1992. Before he took over her ready-to-wear business in 2016, they collaborated as co-designers. In a public statement along with the news of her passing, Kronthaler stated, “I shall go on as long as Vivienne is in my heart. We worked till the end, and she gave me many tasks. Thank you, sweetheart.”
On Thursday night, tributes started to arrive from all around the world. “I will eternally be glad to have been in your orbit,” wrote model Bella Hadid with images of herself and the designer on Instagram. “To me and most, in fashion and mankind, you, Vivienne, were the sun.” A homage was also posted on Instagram by the editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, who called the designer “a true legend of British fashion and an irreplaceable force in the business.” Boy George, a singer, added on Twitter, “She is the indisputable Queen of British fashion. R.I.P. to the brilliant and inspiring Vivienne Westwood, who lead us through punk and beyond.”
Westwood was a fervent advocate for causes ranging from free speech to the environment. Westwood was a vocal supporter of environmental causes and frequently advocated for choosing quality over quantity when buying clothing. With political banners that read, “What’s good for the world is good for the economy,” Westwood led models, actors, and campaigners down the runway for her Fall/Winter 2019/2020 presentation during London Fashion Week.
She frequently participated in environmental protests. In 2015, she famously rode a tank to the home of the then-British Prime Minister David Cameron to voice her opposition to hydraulic fracturing. Outside Britain’s central criminal court in June 2020, Westwood suspended herself in a massive birdcage while wearing a yellow dress in opposition to Julian Assange’s extradition.
In late 2022, Westwood, her sons, and her granddaughter created the not-for-profit organization The Vivienne Foundation. The organization will formally debut the following year. It will “honor, defend, and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design, and activism,” according to her spokesperson.