Vivienne Westwood Tribute

Catwalk models wearing Vivienne Westwood
Image credit: Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive. © Niall McInerney (photographer) All rights reserved.

We have been saddened to hear of the passing of pioneering fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Since Westwood’s early street style-based collaborations with Malcom McLaren, Westwood has defied the ideal of polite, anonymous clothes that express the wearer’s ascribed social status and instead sought to create designs which transcend definitions of class, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

In 1971, Westwood opened a boutique on London’s King’s Road with McLaren. It traded under a variety of names, including SEX, which specialized in selling bondage and fetish fashion. In 1975 they opened Seditionaries, the first punk clothing store in London, at the same location. Punk style utilized bondage and many off-the-wall items, including safety pins and razor blades. The style was further popularized among British youth when Malcolm McLaren became the manager of the band the Sex Pistols, dressing the band in his and Westwood’s designs.

In 1981, Westwood showcased her first catwalk collection in London, a collaboration with McLaren entitled “Pirates.” Westwood’s punk-themed, anarchist style exploded onto the London fashion scene, elevating her reputation within the industry.

From the 1980s to 2000, Westwood’s collections have been categorized by industry insiders into different key looks. From 1988 to 1992 she shifted from punk to “the pagan years.” Collections from 1993 to 1999 have been dubbed “Anglomania,” as she explored an amalgamation between English tailoring and French ideals of design. The collections would become the basis of Westwood’s signature style, combining opulent fabrics with traditional tailoring. By inverting dress codes of the conservative establishment and deconstructing sartorial traditions, Westwood produced garments that were anti-establishment with sexual parody.

From 2000 and into the early twenty-first century, Westwood’s collections have been described as “exploration.” These years have seen a return to her earlier, more sexual works and an experimentation with the organic nature of fabric.

You can read more about Vivienne Westwood’s life and work in the links below, which we have opened:

“My clothes have a story. They have an identity. They have a character and a purpose. That's why they become classics. Because they keep on telling a story. They are still telling it”
– Vivienne Westwood