Legendary fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood has died

The designer was integral in the British punk movement and helped shape the scene with her clothing

Legendary British fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood died today (December 29) at the age of 81, it has been confirmed.

“Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London,” a message posted on her official Twitter page read. “The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”

In a statement emailed to press, Westwood’s husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart. We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with.”

Westwood was an integral part of the British punk movement in the 1970s, helping to shape the scene with her clothing. Early in her career, she made clothes for SEX, the Chelsea boutique she ran with Malcolm McLaren. SEX was later renamed Seditionaries: Clothes for Heroes and Westwood and went on to dress Sex Pistols, whom McLaren managed.

Punk icon Jordan, who died earlier this year, worked as a model for Westwood and managed the shop, while the likes of Siouxsie And The Banshees and Adam And The Ants musician Marco Pirroni, singer-songwriter and formative punk figure Gene October, and more also frequented the store.

Among her signature looks at the time – many of which appeared in her designs again over the decades – were ripped t-shirts, bondage, plaid patterns, mohair, rubber, provocative imagery and safety pin embellishments. Westwood helped bring punk fashion into the mainstream but maintained the rebellious attitude that ran through her early designs throughout her life.

Sex Pistols
Sex Pistols in 1978 CREDIT: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

In the early ‘80s, Westwood launched her own brand, designing clothes which continued to subvert conformist society’s expectations. One of her first collections, released in 1985, featured a “mini-crini” – a crinoline mixed with a mini skirt to highlight the then-growing liberation of women’s sexuality.

Over her career, the icon did everything from designing academic dresses for London’s King’s College and redesign uniforms for Virgin Atlantic flight crews. Her garments have been worn by everyone from punks to royalty, models to K-pop stars and even game characters – in the 2016 game Final Fantasy XV, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret wore a wedding dress designed by Westwood.

Her designs also appeared in the 2008 Sex And The City movie, with Westwood designing a wedding dress for Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw. However, the designer was critical of the fashion that appeared in the film, saying: “I thought Sex And The City was supposed to be about cutting-edge fashion and there was nothing remotely memorable or interesting about what I saw.”

In recent years, the designer became a prominent climate change activist, creating the Climate Revolution in 2012. She unveiled the initiative at the London Paralympics closing ceremony that year.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood CREDIT: Ki Price/Getty Images

“Capitalism is as corrupt as a rotten apple,” a manifesto Westwood wrote as part of the Climate Revolution read. “It’s the economy, stupid! U accept because u think there’s no alternative. But we have hope (war is fought 4 land + cheap labour). Change the economy – NO MAN’S LAND. Start by renting use of land, ocean + air – target: sustainability + peace.”

Westwood also committed her fashion house to reducing its contributions to climate change. In 2020, her spring/summer collection featured clothes made of organic cotton and natural flax, with thread that had been sourced from trees grown in managed forests.

Throughout the years, Westwood remained an outspoken voice for issues she believed in. IN 2005, she teamed up with the civil rights group Liberty to create a collection of t-shirts and baby wear with the slogan: “AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me.” The designer said the campaign defended habeas corpus.

She has also campaigned for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), dedicated a fashion collection to activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and used her 2012 London Fashion Week shows to support Julian Assange and call for his release. In 2020, she protested his possible extradition to the US outside the Old Bailey, suspending herself in a giant birdcage outside the court.

“I am Julian Assange,” Westwood told the crowd gathered beneath her. “I am the canary in the cage. If I die down the coal mine from poisonous gas, that’s the signal for all the miners to leave. But I am half-poisoned already from government corruption of law and gaming of the legal system by government.”

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood protesting Julian Assange’s possible extradition in 2020 CREDIT: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Westwood premiered the documentary Wake Up Punk, which charted the decline of punk through interviews with the designer and her two sons, Ben Westwood and Joe Corré.

Speaking to NME at the premiere, Westwood declared Oasis “derivative” but praised Billie Eilish and Courtney Love. “I’m going to be talking at Billie Eilish’s [upcoming six-day London climate event], which is really great,” she said.

“From what I know of her, I think she’s great. I just heard a bit of her voice and it sounds terrific. Oh and I was doing a photoshoot yesterday with Courtney Love. I’d never listened to her sing before but my husband [designer] Andreas [Kronthaler] said, ‘She’s really good that woman, really great’, so I had a listen too.”

On punk, she added: “The thing about punk was that it was an amazing look. It was probably the most glamorous fashion that’s ever existed and I think that’s what we have to really remember. It was just outrageously brilliant and that’s that.”

Stars from across the entertainment world have begun to pay tribute to Westwood following her death. “you gave me the courage to express myself,” Yungblud wrote on Twitter. “you were the reason i left the house with the confidence to look the way i did. heartbroken. thankyou for everythin, viv. RIP.”

Garbage’s Shirley Manson called the fashion icon “a hero of mine”, while The Pogues’ Spider Stacy said he had “no words” following the news.

See more tributes below.



Posted by JONESY'S JUKEBOX on Thursday, December 29, 2022


This is a developing story and will be updated

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