Vivienne Westwood: The life of an underground icon



FILE – Models applaud as British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood salutes the public after the presentation of her Spring/Summer 2006 collection in Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005. Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, at 81. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

As recent headlines display, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, known for her definitions of avant-garde and punk-inspired designs that have frontiered with several social movements over the past few decades, passed away on December 29, 2022. She rose to fame in the 1970s as a leading figure in the punk movement and has since become one of the most influential and respected figures in the fashion industry.

Westwood began her career as a primary school teacher before opening a small boutique in London’s Kings Road called Let It Rock. The store sold vintage clothing and rock ‘n’ roll-inspired fashion and quickly became a popular destination for London’s punk scene. Westwood began designing her own clothes, and in 1976 she opened another store, called Sex, which sold her own designs. It was here that she first began experimenting with the punk aesthetic, using safety pins and other unconventional materials to create bold and striking pieces.

Westwood’s designs quickly caught the attention of the fashion industry, and in 1981, she presented her first standalone runway show in London. From then on, her collections have been showcased in the fashion capitals of the world, and have been featured in various publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Westwood’s designs was her use of historical references, especially from the Elizabethan and Victorian eras. She often uses traditional materials and silhouettes, but gives them a modern and edgy twist, making them relevant to the fashion world and creative youth today.

Westwood’s designs are not just limited to clothing, but also include accessories and jewelry. She was known for her use of unconventional materials such as safety pins, chains, and other unconventional embellishments that add a punk rock edge to her designs. Her accessories and jewelry have also been highly sought-after by fashion enthusiasts and collectors.

Westwood’s signature orb-shaped pendants designed in many different styles throughout her career were her most iconic pieces worn by consumers. (Aiden Miller)

In addition to her fashion designs, Westwood happened to be also known for her significant commitment to sustainability. She has been known to use organic cotton and other eco-friendly materials in her collections and has also advocated for ethical manufacturing practices. This has led to the establishment of a sustainable fashion line, called the “Eco-Age Collection.”

Westwood has also been politically active and was a strong advocate for environmental and humanitarian issues. She was also a vocal critic of fast fashion and has advocated for a more sustainable approach in her house of couture and the rest of the fashion world.

Westwood has been recognized for her contributions to the fashion industry, with various awards, honors, and accolades. In 2007, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to fashion. She was also made a Dame in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to fashion.

Westwood has been able to successfully establish herself as a global fashion icon and a respected figure in the fashion industry. Her influence on fashion continues to be felt today, and her designs continue to inspire new generations of fashion designers. Westwood’s creative and inspiring spark will truly be missed but will live on through the ever changing and repurposing patterns of fashion and identity to come.