Vivienne Westwood, the “grande dame of fashion”, passed away on Thursday 29 December 2022 surrounded by her family in Clapham, South London.
Known around the world as the “punk empress” since the 1970s, this rebel at heart leaves a vacancy in the fashion world.
Born Vivienne Swire in 1941 in the English Midlands, she grew up in the post-World War II rationing era. She left her native region at the age of 17 for the English capital where she studied fashion.
The punk attitude
There she met Malcolm McLaren, the future manager of the Sex Pistols, and together they marketed the ‘punk attitude’.
In their first shop in Kings’ Road, the couple sold torn T-shirts, chains, padlocks, safety pins and bleached chicken bones. Separated from Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood forged her own style in the 1980s and enjoyed great success in the following decade.
Often mocked for her eccentricity, Vivienne Westwood’s designs are nonetheless full of conviction. For more than 50 years, she used fashion as a political platform, defending her ideas on her catwalks with protest T-shirts and banners.
Designer and activist, clothing as a sign of commitment
At the center of her struggles is her ecological commitment. In 2008, she called on the fashion industry to take climate change into account and to reduce its consumption of clothing. She herself, as an actor in this industry, never stops questioning the established order.
In her biography published in 2014, Vivienne Westwood states “The only reason I’m in fashion is to destroy non-conformity, nothing is interesting to me if there isn’t that element.”
Vivienne Westwood, whose struggles have resonated around the world, will forever be the symbol of British punk fashion.