Vivienne Westwood is and will forever be inextricably linked with punk fashion and rebellion and her impact on the fashion industry is immeasurable only to be seen by the plethora of industry peers who turned to celebrate her life at Southward Cathedral in London yesterday. Born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Derbyshire, England in 1941, she began her career in fashion as a schoolteacher before venturing into the world of design. She met Malcolm McLaren in the early 1970s and together, they became pivotal in the punk movement that swept across the UK in the 1970s.
Westwood's non-conformist approach to fashion set her apart from other designers and it's this individuality that has made her such an icon in the industry and epitomised by her fans. She first gained recognition in the fashion world with her punk-inspired designs which were a stark contrast to the styles of at the time. Her designs were bold, edgy, controversial, but they were always innovative and thought-provoking.
When she moved into designing with her own label my favourite collection was her Spring/Summer 1994 show, which was inspired by the French Revolution. It was held at the Royal Court of Justice in London, featured models wearing corsets and frilly skirts, all with a punk twist. It was instant and cemented Westwood's reputation as a rebel in the fashion world.
Her impact on the punk movement cannot be overstated. Initially styling designs the Sex Pistols and her influence on the movement was so great that she was even referenced in the lyrics of some of their songs. The punk movement was a synonymous reference throughout her career both by her and how others looked at her work as her designs always had a rebellious and non-conformist edge.
But for me Vivienne Westwood involvement in the New Romantic movement and became known for her innovative designs and rebellious attitude. Under Westwood's guidance, Adam Ant became one of the most iconic figures of the movement and his style was closely associated with the "pirate look" that Westwood helped to create the pirate look was characterized by a mix of historical and fantasy-inspired elements, including ruffled shirts, leather waistcoats, fitted trousers, and knee-high boots. The tricorn hat was also an essential part of the outfit, and often featured a feather or other embellishments. The overall effect was one of swashbuckling, romantic adventure, and flamboyant individuality.
But aside from her impact on the fashion world, Westwood is also known for her political and environmental activism. She has been an outspoken advocate for numerous causes, including animal rights, climate change, and nuclear disarmament. She has become one of the most respected and influential activists of her generation.
Vivienne was a long-standing supporter of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, actively involved in campaigning for his release from prison. Westwood spoke out publicly in support of Assange, stating that he was unfairly persecuted for his journalistic work, and has been a vocal critic of the UK government's treatment of him. She attended numerous protests and rallies in support of Assange and has even designed a t-shirt featuring his image, with the slogan "I'm Julian Assange" emblazoned across it. For Westwood, Assange's case was crucial, highlighting the need to protect freedom of the press to fight against government attempts to silence dissenting voices. Even yesterday I spotted Daniel Lismore incorporating Assange’s image on a poster into his outfit in honour of Vivienne. So many attending the memorial were out in force celebrating her championing her fashion in design. Most notably for me were Kate Moss and Richard Grant whom I honestly think was best dressed, wearing a chic pea coat, union jack scarf in Vivienne classic wrap style of the punk era that so many also do and also with a netted had she apparently gave him when he starred as her in Pret a Porter in 1994
I am very saddened that she left us at this point as I do believe we are on the cusp of a renaissance of her design and style which has been emerging for the last two years to which she deserved as I feel her label has been on the fringe for many years. Alongside Vivienne Westwood's corsets, several other pieces from her archive have become highly sought after by vintage fashion collectors, her boots and Westwood's platform shoes, which were a hallmark of have also become iconic vintage pieces today's fast paced fashion landscape, the enduring appeal of vintage Westwood designs is a testament to the enduring power of fashion that pushes boundaries and embraces individuality and as such sought after by vintage fashion collectors and her tribe of loyal fans.
I believe now she has gone it will be truly embraced by the mainstream and it’s a shame as I don’t feel she truly has received the recognition she deserved. Almost a little like what happened with Bowie, he was just starting to receive it but was snatched away from us as it began to start.
Andreas Kronthaler, her husband and who is also a fashion designer whom she worked with ultimately taking the helm of Vivienne Westwood lead the memorial in honour of her yesterday. The age gap often remarked upon but on face value it would seem he adored her I remember hearing that she was once on a flight where my sister was a flight attendant, she was reading the newspaper and tearing articles out and just handing them to him and he received them as a patient recipient.
Dame Vivienne Westwood was true icon of the fashion world her non-conformist approach to design has always set her apart from other designers and gave her an authenticity that cannot be overstated. She was acutely aware of the impact of fashion on ones wellbeing but she more importantly I feel hugely influential an important voice in the fight for a better world.