The inventor of the style of punk, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has died at the age of 81. She used fashion as a weapon against conformism and pollution throughout her life.
The mother of punk
Westwood, born Vivienne Isabel Swire in 1941, died peacefully at home in London on Thursday, surrounded by her family. As the better half of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, the designer virtually singlehandedly invented the punk style. For years, the two dressed the band in what would soon become iconic looks. Clothing with rips, chains, latex and provocative prints became the trademark.
Although she portrayed Queen Elizabeth with a safety pin through her lips and showed up at Buckingham Palace without underwear, she was made a member of the Order of the British Empire and was later elevated to be a Dame. Her son followed in her fashion footsteps, co-founding the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.
Rebel with a mission
Westwood was certainly not a rebel without a distinct cause: she always saw fashion as linked to activism, whether against nuclear weapons, climate change or pollution. In her 2014 biography, Westwood stated that destroying the word ‘conformity’ is the only reason she is in fashion. In her shops, both physical and online, the designer also explicitly calls for buying less, choosing well and making things last.
From the 1980s, her eponymous fashion house would go on to become known for its “new romance” style, with many corsets and dresses made of taffeta. In the 1990s, the orange-haired designer caused a furore among celebrities and top models with towering platform shoes, among others. But even without the iconic designer, the brand continues: her life partner Andreas Kronthaler promises to continue the story.