VIVIENNE WESTWOOD: PUNK PIONEER, ARDENT ACTIVIST & FASHION VISIONARY

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD: PUNK PIONEER, ARDENT ACTIVIST & FASHION VISIONARY

by Jade Fisher
5 min

Yesterday, the fashion world bid farewell to a legend. Dame Vivienne Westwood was many things, but ordinary was not one of them. Punk pioneer, climate champion; a spearhead of avant-garde style – these are just a few of the titles Westwood collected over her decades of industry-altering work.

For over fifty years, the designer had paved the way for a more proactive, rebellious fashion industry. Her obstreperous attitude to life simultaneously charmed and shocked the world, whilst her fantastically avant-garde (and often beautifully nonsensical) collections delighted the millions. Join us as we unpack some of the legendary designer’s most iconic and celebrated moments throughout the decades.

THE “SEX” LEGACY

Back in 1974, Vivienne Westwood debuted her first boutique alongside her then-husband and Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren. A provocative store concept of this calibre had yet to be seen before on London’s King’s Road – and with this, the motherland of punk was born. The boutique, named “Let It Rock” – and famously renamed shortly thereafter to “SEX” – sold a variety of anti-establishment-inspired garments emblazoned with statements such as ‘F*CK’ and ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’. It was within this tiny boutique’s four walls that the Westwood legacy began.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ©

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (COMMANDO)

In perhaps one of the most Westwood-esque moves ever, the designer attended her 1992 OBE acceptance ceremony at Buckingham Palace without any underwear. Whilst swivelling for the camera, however, photographers got a tad more than they had bargained for. Westwood later claimed she had heard that the photo “amused” the Queen. 

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ©

THE CLIMATE CHANGE CHOP 

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to bring awareness to environmental issues, back in 2014 the late designer revealed a freshly-shaved head at a protest against local authority spending cuts in her home borough of Clapham, London. Her representative at the time told the media that Westwood had opted for the drastic chop for two reasons: firstly to alert the world that we must “wake up to climate change”; the second, to embrace her age by growing out her natural white hair.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ©

SS/94 MAGNUM MADNESS

Westwood’s now legendary Spring 1994 fashion show in Paris has become synonymous with her Versaille-era influences. Towering Marie Antoinette-esque hairstyles were adorned with gargantuan ruffled bonnets in a show that encouraged history and modernity to collide on the runway. Perhaps the most iconic moment during the show? Kate Moss, at the height of her career, enjoying a magnum as she swayed down the stage.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ©

HIGH-SEAS SWAGGER

In 1981, Westwood and McLaren debuted their first runway collection together. After over forty years, you will still regularly spot nods to the archetypal show’s pirate-inspired looks in modern fashion collections. The billowing, swash-buckling ensembles inspired legions of New Romantic fans, including rock band Adam and the Ants. Through reimaginings by Galliano, Miu Miu and Margiela, elements of this iconic collection have lived on throughout the ages.

DAVID CORIO ©

TATLER THATCHER

In an issue aptly titled “THIS WOMAN WAS A PUNK”, Westwood appeared on the 1989 cover of Tatler dressed as controversial prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The move epitomised Westwood’s frank political views and anti-establishment mindset. The late designer later said that upon seeing the cover blown up onto huge billboards, even she had to double take to check that it was definitely herself and not Thatcher.

TATLER ©

FISH FOR BRAINS

One of Vivienne Westwood’s more recent collections showed that even by 2020, her avant-garde attitude towards fashion had never wavered. Featuring whimsical headpieces shaped like huge, flopping fish, her SS/20 show, much like the stretch of her career, was an ode to the unconventional.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD ©

More on CULTED

See also: VIVIENNE WESTWOOD DIES AGED 81

See also: “IN FASHION I FIND EVERYTHING I NEED”: KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM ANDREAS KRONTHALER FOR VIVIENNE WESTWOOD SS23

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