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.”
29th December 2022.
Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London.
The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better. pic.twitter.com/YQwVixYUrV
— Vivienne Westwood (@FollowWestwood) December 29, 2022
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
you gave me the courage to express myself. you were the reason i left the house with the confidence to look the way i did. heartbroken. thankyou for everythin, viv. RIP 💔🖤 pic.twitter.com/xy1tU40Gp8
— YUNGBLUD (@yungblud) December 29, 2022
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.
Vivienne Westwood. A hero of mine. 💔
— Garbage (@garbage) December 29, 2022
No words. RIP Video Vivienne Westwood pic.twitter.com/bUrk5JIG8E
— Spider Stacy (@spiderstacy) December 29, 2022
See more tributes below.
Vivienne is gone and the world is already a less interesting place. Love you Viv.
— Chrissie Hynde (@ChrissieHynde) December 29, 2022
R.I.P to the great and inspiring Vivienne Westwood who lead us through punk and beyond.
Laughed at by the fashion industry but without question she is the undisputed Queen of British fashion. I love you! Oh bondage up yours! pic.twitter.com/O6RZqpEVLq
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) December 29, 2022
Long Live Vivienne. ♥️
— Rebecca Lucy Taylor (@SELFESTEEM___) December 29, 2022
Posted by JONESY'S JUKEBOX on Thursday, December 29, 2022
Vivienne Westwood R.I.P. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/SOEOV3kcwk
— Seán Ono Lennon (@seanonolennon) December 29, 2022
Rest in peace Vivienne Westwood. What a woman ❤️🕊 pic.twitter.com/blYK09O2cx
— Jodie Harsh (@jodieharsh) December 29, 2022
So so sad to read of the passing of another great icon.
Rest In Peace Dame Vivienne Westwood 🙌🏽🖤 pic.twitter.com/Wg0k4ykgb4
— Rowetta🎙 (@Rowetta) December 29, 2022
RIP Vivienne Westwood
— Sleaford Mods (@sleafordmods) December 29, 2022
V sad to hear of Vivienne’s passing, we made this photo together in 2008. She was a true original. #VivienneWestwood pic.twitter.com/7AFNF9rZ4J
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) December 30, 2022
Rest In Peace to her beautiful self I love Vivienne Westwood I have many archive pieces that are just amazing. Very special. R.I.P queen 🙏🏽 https://t.co/wsfC31iJBR
— TrendSetter ⭐️ (@coi_leray) December 29, 2022
Mother of Punk.
— Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) December 29, 2022
We are saddened to learn about the passing of legendary designer Vivienne Westwood. A true revolutionary and rebellious force in fashion. pic.twitter.com/4ECNWpAarn
— V&A (@V_and_A) December 29, 2022
RIP the great Vivienne Westwood. Unique. Brilliant. Uncompromising. Thanks Viv x
— Jonathan Ross (@wossy) December 29, 2022
Between Bowie in 2016 to Vivienne Westwood in 2022, the creative IQ of this country has taken quite the hit.
— Danny Wallace (@dannywallace) December 29, 2022
Vivienne Westwood is the woman that showed me I could do anything, I could wear what I wanted, she was an ICON and I lived my life through hers in some sorts of way. There will never be another, but we’ll continue your fight 💚 #viviennewestwood
— TheVivienne (@THEVIVIENNEUK) December 29, 2022
Vivienne Westwood challenged us all to look at what we wore as an extension of our politics. You taught us so much while also making us beautiful. Thank you for everything #RIP pic.twitter.com/DwUUKk2JCe
— THEE ACADEMY Playwright Jeremy O Harris (@jeremyoharris) December 29, 2022
Deeply saddened by a true punk’s passing, Vivienne Westwood, what a hellraiser, what a talent. #VivienneWestwood #angelofdemocracy pic.twitter.com/MfFjwyApJO
— Rose✨McGowan (@rosemcgowan) December 29, 2022
RIP Dame Vivienne Westwood. pic.twitter.com/ckW8czCjzU
— Sacha Lord (@Sacha_Lord) December 29, 2022
https://t.co/pLAvvpyMWr #VivienneWestwood RIP it will take me a bit to take this in…
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) December 29, 2022
Your legacy will live forever, RIP Vivienne Westwood! 🖤🕊️ pic.twitter.com/rjScIz4C5w
— Denai Moore (@DenaiMoore) December 29, 2022
No words. RIP Vivienne Westwood pic.twitter.com/S1Eb3Oxu0c
— Spider Stacy (@spiderstacy) December 29, 2022
One of the most colourful people I’ve ever met, including at a striking junior doctors’ picket line, where she rallied the troops in support of her beloved NHS.
She walked the walk and talked the talk.
RIP Vivienne Westwood! https://t.co/k7BAuEhzJp
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) December 29, 2022
This is a developing story and will be updated