Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood | Credit: Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images

Vivienne Westwood, Punk Fashion Designer, Dies Aged 81

Representatives for Dame Vivienne Westwood have confirmed that the UK fashion designer passed away in her South London home on Thursday, 29th December. She was 81. “Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London,” reads a message on Westwood’s official Twitter account.

The tweet concludes with the statement, “The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better,” and also includes a photograph of a quote from Westwood. “Tao spiritual system,” Westwood says in the quote. “There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life.”

Vivienne Westwood: fashion innovator and political activist

Westwood was born to a working class family in Derbyshire, in the UK’s East Midlands, in 1941. She moved to London in the 1960s, where she met budding fashion designer and music impresario Malcolm McLaren. McLaren and Westwood sold their clothes at a shop on the King’s Road in London’s Chelsea district. Run by McLaren, the shop was first named Let It Rock, then Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die, before taking on its most famous name, SEX.

Westwood’s designs gained notoriety after McLaren began managing the Sex Pistols, whose Westwood-designed outfits would come to epitomise punk fashion. Westwood and McLaren split in the early 1980s, but not before holding their first catwalk show in 1981, which introduced a “new romantic” look comprising buccaneer trousers and flamboyant sashes.

The Westwood brand became a fixture of the European fashion world in subsequent decades, with Westwood’s creations ranging from sky-high platform shoes and Mini-Crini skirts to Harris Tweed suits, taffeta gowns and a whole lot of tartan.

Westwood was an outspoken campaigner for various political and social causes throughout her life. She supported WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after his arrest in 2010. She protested against the pro-fracking policies of former UK PM David Cameron by driving a white army tank to the politician’s county home. She was a regular at climate change rallies and in 1989, Westwood posed as Margaret Thatcher on the cover of Tatler.

In a statement, Westwood’s husband and collaborator 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.”

Further Reading

Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones Admits He Prefers Steely Dan To Punk Rock

Faithless Lead Singer Maxi Jazz Has Died, Aged 65

Angelo Badalamenti, Legendary Film Composer, Dies Aged 85

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