Vivienne Westwood, full name Dame Vivienne Isabel Westwood, was a British fashion designer renowned for her provocative clothing. She was born on April 8, 1941 in Glossop, Derbyshire, England and died on December 29, 2022 in London. She and her partner, Malcolm McLaren, extended the 1970’s punk music movement’s influence into fashion.
It’s no wonder that Dame Vivienne Westwood’s 72 years on Earth have been filled with memorable moments. We’ve compiled a list of seven surprising facts about the punk queen:
1. At the age of 17, Vivienne studied fashion and silversmithing at London’s Harrow School of Art, but dropped out after one term, claiming that a working-class girl could never earn her living in the world of art. She later worked in a factory and then as a teacher until opening her own fashion boutique.
2. Westwood established her own self-titled little fashion empire, running a number of boutiques and releasing two menswear and three womenswear collections each year in addition to bridal wear, shoes, hosiery, eyeglasses, scarves, ties, knitwear, cosmetics, and perfumes. A retrospective of her works debuted at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on April 1, 2004. The largest exhibition the museum had ever devoted to a British designer was “Vivienne Westwood: 34 Years in Fashion.”
3. She received the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1992 for her contributions to British fashion. She didn’t wear knickers to the event or to receive her award from the Queen. When she was given the title “Dame” by the Prince of Wales in 2006, this prank was repeated.
4.The wedding gown designed by Vivienne Westwood for Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City movie is well-known and has inspired thousands of copies. A knee-length version of the dress from the film was for sale on net-a-porter.com, but it quickly sold out. Her first attempt at designing a wedding gown was for her first marriage to Derek Westwood in 1962, long before she had created her own clothing line, thus this wasn’t her first excursion into the industry.
5. Before she wed Derek Westwood in 1962, she worked as a teacher. Self-taught designer Westwood moved in with future Sex Pistols boss McLaren in 1965 after they had met. They both pursued careers in fashion together. They started out running Let It Rock, a stall selling secondhand 1950s vintage apparel and McLaren’s record collection. Based on his thought-provoking concepts, Westwood created apparel designs. Their personalized T-shirts, which were shredded and splashed with shocking anticapitalistic words and graphics, and their bondage trousers—black pants incorporating straps inspired by sadomasochistic outfit out of the London boutique of which the couple became owners in 1971. Their store, which went by the names Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, Sex, and finally Seditionaries, was a young people’s fashion mecca.
6. A turning point was reached with Westwood’s “mini-crini” design, a thigh-grazing crinoline that was made of both cotton and tweed and debuted in her spring/summer 1985 collection. When creating the mini-crini, a condensed version of the Victorian crinoline, Vivienne Westwood was inspired by the ballet Petrushka.
7. For years, Vivienne Westwood has been known for her political activity and for utilizing her name and platform to promote causes including human rights, nuclear disarmament, and climate change. She blogs on these subjects and current events in fashion. I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me was printed on limited edition T-shirts and baby clothing that were first released in September 2005 by Vivienne Westwood in collaboration with the British civil rights organization Liberty.
The death of English fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood on December 29, 2022, at the age of 81, has shocked not just the fashion industry, but the entire world. Westwood had a significant influence on fashion and culture through her designs and social movements. With Westwood’s death, many may wonder what will happen to the label now that its founder is no longer at the helm. Westwood had a robust and distinct vision; will that be lost with her death? Westwood’s legacy is safe in the hands of a designer with whom she has collaborated for years, in this scenario her husband Andreas Kronthaler. Their personal and creative collaboration has resulted in a synergy fueled by a common vision for the Westwood brand as well as a love of design, art history, and inspiring new generation.