With out Vivienne Westwood, there can be no British trend. Such is the legacy of the designer, who handed away on Thursday at 81. Over a profession that spanned greater than half a century, Westwood was the patron saint of British trend’s innate weirdness—the guardian of its thrust, its non-conformity, its punk. With out Westwood, there’d be no Alexander McQueen, no Charles Jeffrey. London Vogue Week would not get pleasure from its standing because the enjoyable one on the worldwide scene. Westwood’s loss of life is British trend’s loss.
Westwood was born in rural Derbyshire to greengrocer mother and father, and moved along with her household to Harrow in 1958 earlier than taking a jewellery course. She was working class—proudly so—and supported herself by means of her research with jobs as a manufacturing unit technician and a major faculty instructor. It was solely when Westwood helmed her personal Portobello Street stall in North West London—then a hotbed of counter-culture and music—that her personal aesthetic got here into being. She made trend and equipment outdoors the world of trend and equipment: her work was subversive, and, for a socially conservative United Kingdom, alien.
Westwood’s marriage to the impresario Malcolm McLaren, her second, helped deliver her designs to the world stage. McLaren would finally handle the Intercourse Pistols, and people spitting, raucous godfathers of punk had been ready-and-waiting fashions for Westwood’s anarchic garments. The tartan? The security pins? The Freddy Krueger in kindergarten knits? That was all Westwood.
Her Chelsea boutique, SEX, turned a holy land for the punk rock motion. Inside, the bastardization of typical British model—tailoring, night gown, and informal put on—was a refreshing level of distinction to continental designers.
Earlier than lengthy, SEX bore trend collections correct and Westwood was exhibiting her distinctive pressure of avant-garde in London and Paris. Her crinolines, cutouts, and rippling bare flesh had impressed the punks; quickly, it influenced the New Romantics, too. The membership youngsters had their very own designer, and so they did not thoughts about a couple of spilled drinks on the yards of dismantled material. Arguably her most well-known assortment got here in 1981. Dubbed “Pirate,” it included the punctured Napoleonic hats, Marie Antoinette sleeves, and Dick Turpin ruffles that turned the uniform for Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. That type of canine-toothed camp by no means let up.
Even in her later years, Westwood was interested in—maybe even fueled by—controversy. Her political ideology was a tartan material all of its personal. In 2005, she produced a collection of slogan T-shirts supporting the British civil rights group Liberty that learn, “I’m not a terrorist.” Two years later, Westwood introduced that she’d switched her assist from Labour, the historic celebration of the employee, over to the Conservatives in gentle of the crimes of the Iraq Conflict. Later got here stumping for the Inexperienced Get together, Jeremy Corbyn, and Julian Assange. Above all, Westwood wished what she believed was to be the very best for the planet, be that political or ecological. “I understand how to save lots of the world from local weather change,” she instructed British GQ in 2021. “I am the one individual with a plan.” Her give attention to sustainability felt becoming for a designer that adored the pure world. Collections turned strictly gender-fluid (they all the time felt that manner, anyway), and materials had been recycled, or natural.