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30 Dec

Dame Vivienne Westwood, Punk Pioneer, Dies at 81

LONDON — Dame Vivienne Westwood, who was chargeable for ushering within the punk fashion phenomenon of the ’70s and whose subsequent designs from pirates to crinolines also had major influence through later many years, died Thursday on the age of 81.

During Westwood’s ​​multi-decade profession she defined British fashion along with her eccentric designs, style and environmental activism.

The brand revealed the passing away of Westwood on Instagram, stating she died peacefully surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London.

“Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the higher. She led a tremendous life. Her innovation and impact over the past 60 years has been immense and can proceed into the long run,” continued the post.

“Vivienne considered herself a Taoist. She wrote, ‘Tao spiritual system. There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a sense that you simply belong to the cosmos and provides purpose to your life; it gives you such a way of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you possibly can live and subsequently should be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.’”

“I’ll proceed with Vivienne in my heart. We’ve got been working until the tip and he or she has given me loads of things to get on with. Thanks darling,” said Westwood’s husband and artistic partner, Andreas Kronthaler.

Westwood was born in 1941 in Tintwistle, within the East Midlands of England. By 1958, her family moved to Harrow within the London Borough of Harrow and that is when she showed an interest in fashion by enrolling in a jewellery and silversmith course at Harrow Art School, now referred to as University of Westminster, but dropped out after one term.

Vivienne Westwood on the Spring/Summer 2018 show


She had a brief stint as a primary school teacher while concurrently creating her own jewelry and selling it at a stall on Portobello Road.

Westwood met her first husband Derek Westwood in 1962 and married him that very same yr in a marriage dress that she made herself on the age of 21.

The couple divorced when she met Malcolm McLaren in 1965, the manager of the Sex Pistols and the driving force behind punk together with Westwood.

They opened a boutique on 430 Kings Road in London’s Chelsea in 1971, where Westwood sold her designs that were worn by the Sex Pistols and the Recent York Dolls. She once recalled to WWD how she could be at the back of the shop sewing the garments on a stitching machine and they’d then be placed on rails out front and sold to customers.

The shop would change its name each time Westwood designed a group, from “Let It Rock” and “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” to “Sex,” “Seditionaries” and “World’s End.”

On stage, members of the Sex Pistols equivalent to Johnny Rotten would rip his shirt and Sid Vicious would use safety pins in his clothes — and an aesthetic that became synonymous with Westwood was born.

“I started fashion as a rebel expressing myself through clothes. We selected the ’50s for our inspiration because that seemed a time when youth rebelled against age: Goodbye, daddy, you’re too square! The hippies politicised my generation and I hated a world of torture and death organized by the western world,” wrote Westwood in her 2016 book “Get a Life: The Diaries of Vivienne Westwood.”

In 1981, Westwood debuted her first fashion show on the London catwalks, titled “Pirates.” The inspiration indicated her lifelong fascination with history and art — topics that she often referenced in each her designs and her conversations. She never seemingly lost the air of the varsity teacher she once was, in her soft voice taking any interview along multiple paths that might wind seamlessly between the Renaissance, World War II, the environment and modern-day politics.

Vivienne Westwood  with Malcolm McLaren in their Seditionaries Clothes collection in 1977.

Vivienne Westwood with Malcolm McLaren of their Seditionaries Clothes collection in 1977.

Tim Jenkins/WWD

“I even have this horrible streak of pedagogy in me, and I get uninterested in myself,” she once told WWD. She was often quoted as saying that one of the best fashion accessory was book. “A very good book,” she told WWD with a smile, “and high-heeled shoes. I like them as well.”

“The thought for Pirates was culture. Let’s get off this island and explore history and the third world/Exchange black for gold. Subversion lies in ideas,” Westwood wrote, name-checking her friend Gary Ness for opening up her world by introducing her to latest music, ballet, authors equivalent to Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell, Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings and Chinese art.

Westwood’s relationship with the abusive and sometimes absent McLaren eventually got here to an end in 1983.

“It was an immensely creative relationship that turned unpleasant,” British stage and screen actor, playwright and historian Ian Kelly told WWD in 2014 ahead of Westwood’s biography he worked on.

He added that Westwood was forced to confront her difficult past. “Having been described by Malcolm as ‘only a seamstress,’ she’s said, ‘Well no, actually, I made this, I did this, and I’m immensely happy with being a component of her saying that stuff,’” said Kelly.

The duo split and battled over the long run of what was then called World’s End. McLaren wanted the production and brand to stay in England, while Westwood wanted it to relocate to Italy and be sold to Fiorucci.

Ultimately — in what turned out to be a wedding of opposites — Westwood signed a seven-year licensing agreement with Giorgio Armani in 1984 that gave the Italian designer exclusive rights to her name. But no clothes were ever produced under the agreement and in 1987 Westwood actually sued Armani for failing to pay her.

Despite the late McLaren’s horrid behavior toward her and their son, Joe Corré, Westwood remained extraordinarily generous in regards to the man’s talent, wit and influence on her work and way of the world. 

“Through Malcolm, I used to be able to have a look at society and politics and culture,” she said within the book, “and he influenced the best way I dressed and thought of clothes, too. He cared passionately for garments and he transformed me from a dolly bird into an elegant, confident dresser. It wasn’t for love of me. He loved clothes.

“Punk was all the pieces to me and Malcolm….What I’m doing now, it still is punk — it’s still about shouting about injustice and making people think, even when it’s uncomfortable. I’ll all the time be a punk in that sense,” she added.

For somebody with Westwood’s outward energetic attitude toward design, her practice was rooted in tradition and borrowing from the past. She used Harris Tweed fabrics for tailoring; silk and taffeta for her 18th-century inspired silhouettes; voluminous shearling; mohair; cashmere, and Grecian drapery.

“Where would I get ideas in the event that they didn’t come from the past? The nice age of garments was the couture until the Nineteen Fifties. We’ve got no hope unless we check with the past,” Westwood told WWD in 1994.

Because the ‘80s rolled in wide shoulders, loads of pouf and bold-colored gowns, Westwood didn’t hesitate to attempt to meet up with the pace of the time. As an alternative, she moved on from punk rock and looked to ridicule, comment and repurpose the look of the upper class and Tatler girls.

For her spring 1985 Mini Crini collection, she looked to the ballet “Petrushka.” The gathering combined 18th-century gowns with tutu dresses in wealthy red wine velvets and delicate white lace on Marilyn Monroe-esqued models. It will have a serious fashion impact and be aped on runways from Tokyo to Recent York, Paris to Milan. WWD dubbed the Paris version “Le Pouf,” while Westwood simply called hers crinolines.

“My prestige has never been as high because it is for the time being because I even have such quite a lot of innovations under my belt,” she told WWD in a 1986 interview. “It has all the time been the case that when others copied me, they lifted me up with them.”

Westwood introduced her orb logo as a logo of taking tradition into the long run, in addition to referencing her fascination with royalty.

“British Vivienne Westwood is the designer’s designer, watched by mental and far-out designers, including Jean-Paul Gaultier. She is copied by the avant-garde French and Italian designers, because she is the Alice in Wonderland of fashion, and her clothes are splendidly mad — implausible enough to be worn on the Mad Hatter’s tea party,” wrote John Fairchild in his 1989 memoir “Chic Savages,” comparing her personal style to Queen Elizabeth II in Harris Tweed with high-laced pilgrim shoes.

Fairchild considered Westwood one among the world’s six biggest designers, together with the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Emanuel Ungaro and Christian Lacroix.

Westwood’s next five collections focused on British-ism, to which she called her “Pagan years,” and the collections would go on to be called “Britain Must Go Pagan.”

Her fall 1987 collection was inspired by somewhat girl she saw on a train wearing a Harris Tweed jacket. 

“Tailoring is the premise of my collection, which is appropriately, since it’s the premise of English fashion,” Westwood said in WWD in 1994.

“But until recently, I used to be changing my tailor every season. In Britain, they’ve this laissez-faire attitude toward small business, that they are going to just spring up on their very own with none help from the federal government. Now my tailoring is sort of good, because I even have somewhat atelier here and one other one there, and so forth. But I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Italy. They might have corrupt politicians, but no less than they do something for the companies.”

Westwood steered in a latest aesthetic within the ‘90s as she married Austrian design student Kronthaler, who became her partner in life and work over the span of greater than twenty years.

Vivienne Westwood surrounded by models after being awarded British fashion's highest award - Designer of the Year - at the Royal Albert Hall.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Vivienne Westwood surrounded by models after being awarded British fashion’s highest award – Designer of the 12 months – on the Royal Albert Hall. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

PA Images via Getty Images

The couple’s partnership led to success. Westwood received the Fashion Designer of the 12 months award in 1990 and 1991 from the British Fashion Council.

Soon Westwood’s efforts in fashion were awarded with an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1992.

The designer accepted the award in a gray suit-skirt — while posing for the cameras after the ceremony, she twirled in her skirt and unintentionally exposed her bare crotch.


Vivienne Westwood at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Martin Keene – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

PA Images via Getty Images

“It didn’t occur to me that, because the photographers were practically on their knees, the result could be more glamorous than I expected,” she later explained, adding that she had heard the queen had found it amusing.

Kate Moss au défilé Vivienne Westwood, Prêt-à-Porter, collection été 1994 à Paris en octobre 1993, France. (Photo by ARNAL/GARCIA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Kate Moss swanning in Marie Antoinette face paint, topless down the Erotic Zones runway show of spring 1995.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Without end the mischievous designer with a wicked humorousness, the ‘90s showcased her subversive silliness with a cue of supermodels: Naomi Campbell at 16, tumbling down the runway in 9-inch platforms throughout the fall 1993 show; Carla Bruni strutting down the runway along with her hands on her hips in a fake fur coat and matching underwear; Kate Moss swanning in Marie Antoinette face paint, topless down the Erotic Zones runway show of spring 1995, eating a chocolate ice cream.

A lover of tartan, Westwood created her own for the “Anglomania” collection and imagined her own clan, the MacAndreas, which was officially recognized by the Lochcarron of Scotland.

But whilst influential as her designs often were, Westwood never reached the mega success of her European or American peers. While major U.S. retailers did carry her collections, quite a lot of her sales through the late ’80s and ’90s were in Japan. She did open a flagship in London’s Conduit Street within the ’90s, and ventured into fragrances by launching Boudoir in 1998 with Martin Gras of Dragoco, who helped create such scents as Cerruti 1881 pour Homme, Lapidus Pour Homme and Bleu Marine for Pierre Cardin.

“My perfume is known as Boudoir. A boudoir is a dressing room and a spot to get undressed. It signifies a lady’s space, a spot where she is on intimate terms with herself, where she sees her faults and her potential,” Westwood explained behind the concept of the scent.

Westwood’s Red Label launched in 1999 — a ready-to-wear line that combined Savile Row tailoring with French couture. That very same yr, she opened her first Recent York boutique.

FIT’s Valerie Steele said via email Thursday that Westwood had a huge effect on the world of fashion. “She was not only the high priestess of punk, she also pioneered the unconventional combination of historic references and contemporary subcultures, often doing research within the dress collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Galliano and McQueen were definitely influenced by her, but so was Christian Lacroix.”

Tommy Hilfiger said, “Vivienne and Malcolm McLaren were behind the punk rock scene in London within the ’70s with the Sex Pistols. It was a strong fashion music revolution on the time. I visited their store on Kings Road within the early ’70s. It was an exciting and memorable experience I’ll always remember. This inspired me to open a punk rock shop in 1974 called The Underground within the basement of my store, People’s Place. Vivienne was a visionary, a force and a committed activist. Her legacy as a trailblazer is indisputable. 

Andrew Burnstine, associate professor at Lynn University’s College of Business and Management, who’s the grandson of Martha’s founder and chairwoman Martha Phillips, said, “Martha discovered Vivienne through the buying office we had in London on the time. Her first show was an incredible hit. I all the time remember the incredible Elizabethan gowns coming down the runway, with models draped in pearl necklaces, flowing trains of lace infused with flowers and stylish trimming. There have been mirrors on the partitions and sconce lighting illuminated your entire area. I believed I used to be a component of a royal wedding, or ceremony, awaiting the ultimate entrance of Elizabeth I.

“Martha, Lynn [Manulis, Phillips’ daughter] and I went to the showroom a day or two after the show. Vivienne was there and greeted us along with her resounding English voice. She proceeded to help her sales team explaining the gathering, and likewise gave us an incredible fashion history as well, discussing the  importance of fashion and the Elizabethan era. I’ll always remember her meticulous eye, her dedication to detail, and what I learned in regards to the history of fashion from who has turn into for over five many years the ‘voice’ of fashion for this century. Vivienne did do a trunk show with us in Recent York during her second yr in business. It was an enormous success. Customers were lining as much as try on among the gowns that were a component of the trunk show collection. Martha’s took quite a lot of orders, and when the garments were delivered months later, they fit to perfection.

“And now, as a professor of fashion, once I speak about Vivienne Westwood with my students, I mention the undeniable fact that there is maybe no other designer of our lifetime who has created fashion from so many various eras and times. From Elizabethan to the Priestess of Punk, her ‘circular’ fashion looks have linked the past, present and the long run. As Vivienne so aptly stated, ‘Fashion is life-enhancing, and I believe it’s a beautiful generous thing to do for other people.’ And by all accounts, she has definitely achieved her goal.”

Julie Gilhart, chief development officer, Tomorrow Ltd. and president, Tomorrow Projects, who was previously senior vp, fashion director at Barneys Recent York, said, “She was the queen. She influenced so many up-and-coming designers and can proceed to. She took risks that others would never do and was an early activist for the planet and endlessly continued to wave the green flag. She never lost her youthful approach and keenness. Her legacy is vast and can proceed to encourage future generations.” 

Describing Westwood as “a real original and game changer in so some ways,” Michael Kors recalled Thursday meeting her in Scotland at a fashion event within the early ’90s. “I used to be taken along with her wit, intelligence and sharp humor,” Kors said.

He continued, “Her influences ran the gamut from the road and music to historical references, and he or she all the time delivered in her own inimitable style. From punk to corsets to platforms, her vision modified the best way women dressed and saw themselves. Her influence will proceed to encourage generations to come back.” 

By the early 2000s, Westwood had established herself on the forefront of British fashion and was internationally recognized. But her messaging had turned to the environment and politics along along with her son, Corré, cofounder of Agent Provocateur.

In 2016, Westwood joined her son at a ritual burning of punk memorabilia in defiance of celebrations to mark the fortieth anniversary of the movement.

The rally — which was livestreamed — took place near the Albert Bridge in Chelsea, and saw a crowd of 200 supporters and press gathered on the riverbank to observe Corré set fire to his belongings from an ex-Navy minesweeper ship on the Thames.

The boat was decorated with an indication “Extinction! Your Future” together with a few Grim Reaper-like skeleton figures and a climate change map. Corré set fire to clothes, records, posters and other items that had been laid inside a chest, together with figures of politicians equivalent to former Prime Minister Teresa May and David Cameron. Onlookers watched because the items were burned, and a small display of fireworks went off.

“Punk was never, never meant to be nostalgic,” Corré said. “Punk has turn into one other marketing tool to sell you something you don’t need. The illusion of another option. Conformity in one other uniform.”

Westwood marked her eightieth birthday in 2021 with a string of social and environmental warnings and a brief film by which she sings a rewritten version of “Without You” from the musical “My Fair Lady.” 

She worked on a movie with Circa, which commissions a special artist every month to create a latest work for Europe’s largest screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus.

In a written message that appears within the film, Westwood said: “I even have a plan 2 save the World. Capitalism is a war economy + war is the most important polluter, subsequently Stop War + change economy 2 fair distribution of wealth at the identical time.” 

She called on people to “stop arms production + that may halt climate change cc + financial Crash. Long run this may stop war…by talking U will support me within the fight. At some point soon U will say the proper thing 2 the proper person at the proper time, make a difference. I even have all the time combined fashion with activism: the one helps the opposite. Possibly fashion can Stop War.”

— With contributions from Lisa Lockwood and Rosemary Feitelberg

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