Words By Roslynn McKenzie
Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE, RDI: there’s only one way to describe her – «The Queen of Punk».
But where to even begin to describe her talents…? From High School home economics class to studying fashion at University, Vivienne Westwood was one artist who was omni present. Many celebrities – even fashion designers – universally look up to her. Three times British Fashion Designer of the Year. But it didn’t start out like that.
Vivienne Westwood had a difficult start; she was the definition of hard work and persevered despite contempt at her variant look on the world. Being a self confessed fashion anarchist, whose aim was to undermine the establishment, she abhorred the values of the older generations, seeking to obliterate them. Then, instead of attacking the system, she started marketing it for change.
Although most known for being the Queen of Punk, Westwood’s designs fluctuated through the decades, shapeshifting her style, keeping her fans and followers on their toes.
In the documentary «Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist» (2018, Amazon Prime Video) Vivienne Westwood herself mentions that it’s the key to keeping people interested – people expect change ad infinitum. Kate Moss describes it perfectly in the documentary, stating her designs are provocative, beautiful and respectful – it’s hard to imagine that one designer can encompass all these things.
From first coming on the scene in the early 70s with her first boyfriend then husband Malcolm McLaren, Westwood designed Teddy Boy clothes and they opened a small boutique called Let It Rock at 430 Kings Road, Chelsea, London.
This soon changed to Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die 1972, Marlon Brand-influenced rocker/biker style.
When evolving her design, she would change the shop name to fit. After Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die came SEX in 1976. London had never seen anything like it at that time. Selling S&M inspired clothing, at that time Vivienne and Malcolm McLaren were working with the Sex Pistols.
Jumping into 1981 ‘Pirates’
Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s first ever collection to hit the runway. The collection charged with gold, orange, yellows and contrasting blues, that ruptured into the streets of London.
In an act of female liberation Vivienne Westwood famously brought back the female corset in 1990 inspired by 18th century paintings. Two models kiss as they wear outfits during a fashion show. Westwood once said in a interview «l play around with the idea of sexuality because I don’t like orthodoxy in any shape or form.» (Westwood).
Perhaps the most famous show of all, everyone has heard about model Naomi Campbell falling wearing 6″ heels from the collection.
«Anglomania» 1993/94 collection, Vivivenne Westwood and her partner and designer Andreas Kronthaler designed this collection as you could probably guess in Scotland, using ‘Andreas’ tartan.
2015 «Unisex» – Vivienne and Andreas Kronthaler were one of the first to bring androgynous looks out…making history AGAIN. Dressing men and women in dresses and trousers.
Her designs were timeless and all meant something in the greater picture, connecting with the human expression. The clothes weren’t necessarily about sexual identity, rather the enjoyment of life itself.
Westwood’s famous pirate boots that have established themselves as collector’s pieces since the 80s.
Westwood’s jewellery especially the pearl necklace, first created in the 1990, the conspicuous symbol cross between sovereign’s orb representing the royal British iconography and the rings of Saturn for outer-space, has become immensely popular in 2021 anew of the Millienials and GenZ . The trend went viral on tiktok with over 73.6m views sourced on tiktok.com, with celebs like Rihanna and again with Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid wearing them.
Perhaps the most endearing thing was that she didn’t care about the money – she wanted to make a difference in the world, to «better» the world. She cared deeply for the planet to make it a better place.
Her global popularity has not decreased. Her contribution and originality to British fashion is mega, as is the legacy she leaves behind.
We can only hope and assume that the fashion world will give her the send off she so implicitly deserves.
Dame Vivienne Westwood 1941 – 2022