Fashion Designer and Style Icon Dame Vivienne Westwood Dies at 81
December 30, 2022
British fashion designer, style icon, and “high priestess of punk”, Dame Vivienne Westwood, has died in her home in London, aged 81. According to an official statement from the eponymous fashion house, she died “peacefully and surrounded by her family”.
Westwood met Malcom McLaren in 1965, joining him in managing a shop on London’s King’s Road to develop a recognisable visual grammar for the British punk movement that continues to permeate the fashion world today.
With her beginnings styling and designing for the Sex Pistols, Westwood made a name for herself with controversial punk and new wave styles in the 1970s, exploring androgynous designs, graphic slogan t-shirts, and strong irreverent attitudes.
From torn garments, chains, and latex, the shop took on many names, including “Let it Rock”, “Sex” and “Seditionaries” among others – but was always immediately recognised on the street for its one-of-a-kind concept.
When she was awarded her OBE medal by Queen Elizabeth in 1992, she twirled in her sans culottes to reveal she was not wearing her underwear to Buckingham Palace. In 1989, she made the front cover of Tatler magazine dressed as then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and later drove a white tank near the country home of former Prime Minister David Cameron to protest against fracking.
As an outspoken advocate for the planet and many other socio-political issues, Westwood would promote the causes she cared about to the catwalk. She was as staunch in her activism as she was in breaking the rules of conformity.
“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity’”, said Westwood in her 2014 autobiography, ‘Vivienne Westwood’. “Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”
Tributes poured in from the fashion world and beyond after learning of her passing, with Marc Jacobs taking to Instagram to express his heartbreak, “You did it first. Always. Incredible style with brilliant and meaningful substance.”
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