Legendary fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood has died at the age of 81. Her representatives issued a statement late on Thursday (29 December) which said she died peacefully at home in Clapham, South London, surrounded by her family. It went on to say “The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”
Her husband and creative partner 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. Thank you darling.”
Massive influence on the punk movement
She came to public notice during the 1970’s when she, along with Malcolm McLaren, shaped the UK’s punk scene, which was dominated initially by McLaren’s band, the iconic Sex Pistols. She was quoted as saying: “I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way.”
Independent shops go global
She used clothes to shock, irritate, and provoke a reaction, but above all else to inspire a change for what was in her eyes, the better. Her designs were independent and represented a statement of her own values. She opened a Kings Road boutique which became known as SEX, followed by several more in London and eventually expanded across Britain and around the world.
She often took up a political cause, such as the campaign for nuclear disarmament, civil rights and more recently climate change.
Derbyshire girl makes good
She was born on 8 April, 1941 in the quiet, but charming Derbyshire village of Tintwistle, and was the eldest of three children. She was educated in Glossop, also in glorious Derbyshire, where in August of this year, local creative to the area, Deggy, honoured the trailblazer with a wall mural dedicated to her designs and ideas.
She moved down to London with her family where she met Derek Westwood and they married in July 1962, for which she made her own wedding dress. They had a son, Benjamin, a year later.
In 1992 she was awarded an OBE for services to fashion which she collected from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, and in 2006 this was advanced to a DBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
She twice won the award for British Designer of the Year.
Virgin uniform has her touch
She is responsible for the design of the iconic uniforms worn by Virgin Atlantic crew, after working closely with Richard Branson. They were both passionate with regards to using sustainable materials to reduce the environmental impact.
Happy to show her political colour
In January 2015, Westwood announced her support of the Green Party: “I am investing in the Green Party because I believe it is in the best interests of our country and our economy”, she said at the time. It was reported, but not confirmed, that she had donated £300,000 to fund the party’s election campaign.
Notable writing achievements
She was also a celebrated author or co-author of books, such as Impressionism, and Fashion in Art: The Second Empire, where she delves into the links between the worlds of fashion and the arts.
Activist son will continue her fighting causes
As well as Benjamin, the son she had with Derek Westwood, she also had a second son Joseph Ferdinand Corré, whose father was Malcolm McLaren. He was born in November 1967 and is a British activist and businessman, who co-founded Agent Provocateur in 1994. His unusual surname was actually given to him at birth by his parents and derives from his father’s grandmother who was from Portugal.
As a child he always wore his mother’s punk designs, and remained close to her all of her life; publicly campaigning on several matters with her, especially for the release of WikiLeaks publisher and journalist Julian Assange, an issue which remained of massive significance to Vivienne right up to her passing.