Vivienne Westwood Didn’t Just Make British Fashion—She Was British Fashion

With out Vivienne Westwood, there can be no British trend. Such is the legacy of the designer, who handed away on Thursday at 81. Over a profession that spanned greater than half a century, Westwood was the patron saint of British trend’s innate weirdness—the guardian of its thrust, its non-conformity, its punk. With out Westwood, there’d be no Alexander McQueen, no Charles Jeffrey. London Trend Week would not get pleasure from its standing because the enjoyable one on the worldwide scene. Westwood’s dying is British trend’s loss. 

Westwood was born in rural Derbyshire to greengrocer mother and father, and moved together with her household to Harrow in 1958 earlier than taking a jewellery course. She was working class—proudly so—and supported herself by means of her research with jobs as a manufacturing facility technician and a major faculty instructor. It was solely when Westwood helmed her personal Portobello Highway stall in North West London—then a hotbed of counter-culture and music—that her personal aesthetic got here into being. She made trend and equipment exterior the world of trend and equipment: her work was subversive, and, for a socially conservative United Kingdom, alien.

Westwood’s marriage to the impresario Malcolm McLaren, her second, helped deliver her designs to the world stage. McLaren would ultimately handle the Intercourse Pistols, and people spitting, raucous godfathers of punk had been ready-and-waiting fashions for Westwood’s anarchic garments. The tartan? The security pins? The Freddy Krueger in kindergarten knits? That was all Westwood. 

Her Chelsea boutique, SEX, grew to become a holy land for the punk rock motion. Inside, the bastardization of typical British model—tailoring, night costume, and informal put on—was a refreshing level of distinction to continental designers. 


Earlier than lengthy, SEX bore trend collections correct and Westwood was exhibiting her distinctive pressure of avant-garde in London and Paris. Her crinolines, cutouts, and rippling bare flesh had impressed the punks; quickly, it influenced the New Romantics, too. The membership youngsters had their very own designer, they usually did not thoughts about just a few spilled drinks on the yards of dismantled material. Arguably her most well-known assortment got here in 1981. Dubbed “Pirate,” it included the punctured Napoleonic hats, Marie Antoinette sleeves, and Dick Turpin ruffles that grew to become the uniform for Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. That form of canine-toothed camp by no means let up.

Even in her later years, Westwood was drawn to—maybe even fueled by—controversy. Her political ideology was a tartan material all of its personal. In 2005, she produced a collection of slogan T-shirts supporting the British civil rights group Liberty that learn, “I’m not a terrorist.” Two years later, Westwood introduced that she’d switched her assist from Labour, the historic get together of the employee, over to the Conservatives in gentle of the crimes of the Iraq Conflict. Later got here stumping for the Inexperienced Celebration, Jeremy Corbyn, and Julian Assange. Above all, Westwood needed what she believed was to be the most effective for the planet, be that political or ecological. “I understand how to save lots of the world from local weather change,” she advised British GQ in 2021. “I am the one individual with a plan.” Her give attention to sustainability felt becoming for a designer that adored the pure world. Collections grew to become strictly gender-fluid (they all the time felt that approach, anyway), and materials had been recycled, or natural. 

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