VIVIENNE Westwood is undoubtedly one of the most outspoken fashion designers in the world. Helping set the style for modern punk, Westwood rose to fame in the late 1970s when her early designs shaping the look of the punk rock movement and defining an era.
Born Vivienne Isabel Swire in 1941 in Derbyshire and moving to Middlesex age 17, the future fashion icon found work at a local factory and eventually enrolled at a teacher training school, nearly resulting in her giving up on fashion and design. She had an interesting childhood during the war and didn’t taste a banana until she was seven years old.
“I lived in a part of the country that had grown up in the Industrial Revolution,” she once said. “I didn’t know about art galleries…I’d never seen an art book, never been to the theatre.”
By the early 1960s, she’d married Derek Westwood, with whom she had a son, Ben, and embarked on work as a teacher. However, her first marriage dissolved and she met Malcolm Mclaren, an art student and future manager of the Sex Pistols. With Mclaren, Westwood had a second son, Joseph. Mclaren exposed Westwood to a new world of creative freedom and the power of art and politics, and so Vivienne Westwood was born.
She’s constantly been ahead of the curve, not just influencing fashion, but often dictating it. After her run with the Sex Pistols, Westwood went an entirely new direction with her Pirate collection of frilly shirts and other garments of the 1980s and the frayed tulle and tweed suit of the 1990s. She’s even proved it’s perfectly possible to make a subversive statement with underwear. English designer Jasper Conran explained: “Vivienne does, and others follow.”
Westwood’s unconventional style and outspokenness daring nature show a level of fearlessness about her and her work.In one famous incident, she impersonated the Margaret Thatcher on the cover of a British magazine by wearing a suit Thatcher had ordered but not yet received.
For more than 30 years, even after she had long made her fortune and fame, Westwood lived in the same small South London apartment, paying just $400 a month for the home and riding her bike to her studio in Battersea. Twice she has been named British designer of the year and was awarded the O.B.E. (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1992.
In 1993, ten years after Westwood and Mclaren split, Westwood married for a second time, to her assistant, Andreas Kronthaler, who is 25 years younger than she is. Today, he is her design partner.
“Vivienne Westwood is so much more than just a fashion designer to me”
She’s not just known for fashion, she has a strong presence as an activist. Anything from campaigning against climate change to driving a tank to David Cameron’s house in a fracking protest.
Vivienne Westwood, to me, is so much more than just a fashion designer. She uses her position to raise important issues in society and to make a stand. For her, it’s more than just creating clothes, it’s about making a difference and for that reason alone Westwood continues to be one of the fashion greats that inspires me greatly.
It’s no wonder that Westwood has claimed our fashionable hearts.