Punk pioneer and iconic fashion maverick Vivienne Westwood passed away on Thursday at the age of 81. Her passing was publicized on social media by Westwood’s self-named fashion label, which claimed she passed away quietly.
According to the statement, “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, right up until the very end, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and influencing the world for the better.”
Early Life and Career
Westwood’s career in fashion began in the 1970s when her avant-garde take on urban street style swept the globe. She went on to have a long and successful career, marked by a number of successful runway shows and museum exhibitions. Even though Westwood’s focus changed from year to year, her range was wide, and her work was never predictable, the name Westwood became synonymous with attitude and style.
She appeared to have a fashion sense beyond her growing stature. Even though she continued to have her hair dyed that distinctively vivid shade of orange, the young woman who had rejected the British establishment eventually rose to become one of its leading stars.
Her former colleagues, Westwood, and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, according to Andrew Bolton, director of The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, “gave the punk movement a look, a style, and it was so radical it broke from anything in the past.”
Bolton mentioned “the ripped clothes, the safety pins, and the outrageous phrases.” Postmodernism was introduced by her. From the mid-1970s on, it had a significant impact. The punk trend has persisted and is now ingrained in our understanding of fashion. It’s now widely accepted.
Westwood’s lengthy career was rife with contradictions: the queen frequently recognized her for being a lifelong renegade. Even in her 60s, she continued to dress like a youngster and became a vocal opponent of climate change, predicting the end of the world.
In her punk days, Westwood frequently wore disturbing clothing on purpose. T-shirts with illustrations of naked guys and “bondage pants” with sadomasochistic overtones were commonplace in her well-known London stores. But Westwood managed to seamlessly make the switch from punk to high couture, maintaining her career without reverting to self-parody.
She was constantly looking to redefine the industry. Her work is rebellious and controversial. It has strong roots in the satirical, ironic, and pastiche traditions of England. She sends it up despite being quite happy to be English, according to Bolton.
One of those divisive images had the term “Destroy,” a swastika, and a reversed depiction of Jesus Christ on the cross. She claimed it was part of a message against politicians torturing people in an autobiography she co-wrote with Ian Kelly, citing Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. In a 2009 interview with Time magazine, Westwood was asked if she regretted using the swastika. She responded, “No.”
I don’t because we basically told the older generation that they were all fascists and that we didn’t embrace their ideals or taboos.
Westwood’s Varied Journey
In her early years, she attacked her profession with enthusiasm, but as time went on, she appeared to grow weary of the commotion. She occasionally spoke wistfully of leaving the fashion industry after decades of designing in order to focus on environmental issues and educational initiatives.
She told The Associated Press after revealing one of her brand-new designs at a show in 2010 that “fashion can be so boring. “I’m looking for anything else to do,” she said.
She attracted celebrities from the glitzy worlds of cinema, music, and television who wanted to bask in Westwood’s reflected splendor, making her runway presentations always the most stylish spectacles. Nevertheless, she spoke against consumerism and ostentatious consumption, even pleading with others to forgo purchasing her pricy, exquisitely crafted clothing.
She remarked, “I just tell people to quit buying clothes. While we still have this gift of life, why not preserve it? I disagree with the viewpoint that destruction is unavoidable. Some of us want to put a stop to that and aid in people’s survival.
In an effort to prevent Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from being extradited to the United States, Westwood used his activism to support Assange by standing in a massive birdcage in 2020. She even created the gown Stella Moris used to wed Assange in a London prison this past March.
Westwood had no official background in fashion and was self-taught. She claimed to have learned how to make her own garments as a teenager by using patterns, according to Marie Claire magazine. She searched markets for vintage clothing and disassembled it to see how they were made in order to sell 1950s-style clothing in her first store.
On April 8, 1941, Westwood was born in the Derbyshire village of Glossop. She attended art school for one semester after her family relocated to London in 1957.