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The Enduring Legacy Of Vivienne Westwood Fashion Empire

Discover the avant-garde world of fashion pioneer Vivienne Westwood. From punk rebellion to sustainable haute couture, explore the enduring legacy of this iconic designer who seamlessly blends style and activism.

Adaline Fritz
Jan 30, 2024131 Shares14580 Views
Vivienne Westwood, a name synonymous with audacity, rebellion, and avant-garde fashion, has etched an indelible mark on the global fashion landscape. With a career spanning over five decades, Westwood's journey from the maverick pioneer of punk fashion to a revered advocate for sustainability and ethical practices is nothing short of extraordinary.
Her fearless designs, rooted in a spirit of nonconformity, have not only revolutionized the way we perceive fashion but also paved the way for a more conscientious and socially aware industry. In this exploration of Vivienne Westwood's life and impact, we delve into the evolution of her revolutionary designs and the enduring legacy she continues to shape.

Quick Facts About Vivienne Westwood

NameVivienne Isabel Swire (Vivienne Westwood)
BirthdayApril 8, 1941
DeathDecember 29, 2022
ProfessionFashion designer
Net worth$50 million

Early Life Of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, originally Vivienne Isabel Swire, came into the world on April 8, 1941, in Tintwistle, Cheshire, England. Her parents, Dora Ball, and Gordon Swire, played crucial roles in shaping her early life. Gordon worked as a storekeeper in an aircraft factory at the time of Vivienne's birth, and their family later relocated to Harrow, Greater London, in 1958.
In her pursuit of artistic expression, Westwood enrolled in a jewelry and silversmith course at Harrow Art School. However, her journey at the school was brief, lasting only one term. Reflecting on this decision, she remarked, "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could make a living in the art world." Subsequently, she found employment in a factory and also attended a teacher-training college, eventually embarking on a career as a primary school teacher.
During this period, Vivienne didn't confine herself to traditional roles. She explored her creativity by crafting jewelry, which she sold at a stall in the vibrant Notting Hill district.

Fashion Career Of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood wearing a black and white checkered top
Vivienne Westwood wearing a black and white checkered top
From 1974 to 1976, Vivienne Westwood, in collaboration with her future husband, Malcolm McLaren, ignited a fashion revolution through their boutique, SEX, situated at 430 King's Road, London. The establishment, formerly known as Let it Rock and Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, became a mecca for punk fashion.
Westwood's vision during this period was nothing short of messianic, as she sought to challenge societal norms and change the very fabric of fashion itself. Reflecting on those transformative years, she stated,
It changed the way people looked. I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way. I realized there was no subversion without ideas. It's not enough to want to destroy everything.- Vivienne Westwood
The early '80s witnessed the dynamic duo releasing the Pirate collection, a precursor to a series of groundbreaking fashion statements that followed: Savages, Buffalo/Nostalgia Of Mud, Punkature, Witches, and Worlds End.
After parting ways with McLaren, Westwood introduced the Clint Eastwood collection in late 1984, marking a significant shift. The period from 1981 to 1985, self-dubbed her "New Romantic" phase, saw Westwood leave an indelible mark on pop culture by creating the signature look for the band Adam and the Ants.
In the mid-1980s, Westwood drew inspiration from the ballet "Petrushka," resulting in the creation of the mini-crini - an abbreviated version of the Victorian crinoline that became a symbol of her avant-garde ingenuity.
Fast forward to 2013, and Westwood's collaboration with Richard Branson resulted in a groundbreaking initiative: the design of new uniforms made from recycled polyester for the Virgin Atlantic crew. A move towards sustainability and innovation, this venture showcased Westwood's commitment to ethical fashion.
As of late 2015, Vivienne Westwood's global footprint extended to over 70 stores worldwide, reflecting the international resonance of her designs. However, not without its challenges, in 2011, Vivienne Westwood Ltd faced a tax settlement of £350,000 with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for underestimating the brand's value. The scrutiny followed the sale of trademarks to Latimo, a Luxembourg-based company controlled by Westwood.
Vivienne Westwood's designs reached the silver screen in 2008 when Sarah Jessica Parker's iconic character, Carrie Bradshaw, chose a Vivienne Westwood wedding gown in the "Sex and the City" movie. The gown, available for purchase on Net-a-porter for $9,875, sold out almost instantly, reaffirming Westwood's enduring influence on contemporary fashion.

Vivienne Westwood Movie

In June 2018, the eagerly anticipated documentary, "Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist," made its debut in the U.S., offering an intimate portrayal of Vivienne Westwood's extraordinary journey from a housewife to a boundary-pushing fringe designer and ultimately to a globally revered fashion icon. Directed by Lorna Tucker, the documentary provides viewers with a front-row seat to the evolution of Westwood's trailblazing career.
While "Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist" has garnered praise from some critics for its insightful narrative and candid portrayal of Westwood's life, the renowned designer herself has not hesitated to express her discontent with certain aspects of the film. Westwood, known for her outspoken nature, particularly highlighted the documentary's minimal coverage of her significant contributions to environmental activism - a cause close to her heart.
In a public statement, Westwood did not mince words, expressing her disappointment in the documentary:
It’ a shame... the film is mediocre, and Vivienne and Andreas are not.- Vivienne Westwood

Awards And Honors Of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood wearing a white mesh top
Vivienne Westwood wearing a white mesh top
In 1996, Westwood received the prestigious Bambi Award in the Fashion category, recognizing her outstanding contributions to the industry. In 2021, her influence transcended fashion when she was named the Game Changer at the "GQ" Men of the Year Awards, underscoring her transformative impact on culture and society.
The Fashion Awards have been a frequent stage for Westwood's triumphs. She clinched the title of British Designer of the Year not once, not twice, but an impressive three times, a testament to the enduring relevance of her avant-garde designs. In 2018, Westwood was further celebrated with the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, acknowledging her tireless efforts in championing sustainable and ethical practices within the fashion realm.
The academic sphere also recognized Westwood's contributions. In 2007, she was granted a Fellowship at King's College London, solidifying her influence in the realms of art and education. The subsequent year showcased Westwood's commitment to academia when she designed a stunning array of gowns and hoods for students at King's College London to don during their commencement ceremonies, merging her avant-garde vision with the traditions of academic achievement.
Her impact resonated beyond the United Kingdom, as in 2008, Westwood was bestowed with an honorary Doctor of Letters by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. This recognition underscored not only her contributions to the fashion world but also her broader influence on culture and society.

Vivienne Westwood Net Worth

The late Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE RDI, an English fashion luminary and accomplished writer, left an indelible mark on the world of style and creativity. At the time of her passing in 2022, her net worthstood at an impressive $50 million, a testament to her enduring influence and success in the realm of fashion.
Renowned for her groundbreaking approach to fashion, Westwood seamlessly integrated punk elements and avant-garde designs, elevating them from subcultural niches to mainstream fashion. While punk and new wave aesthetics had been present for years, it was Westwood's innovative designs and unparalleled influence that propelled them into the global spotlight.
The 1970s marked a pivotal era for Westwood as she co-ran the influential SEX boutique on King's Road alongside her second husband, Malcolm McLaren. This collaboration became a pivotal chapter in her career, solidifying her reputation as a trailblazer who not only embraced but shaped the evolving landscape of modern fashion.

Personal Life And Philanthropy Of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood's personal life was as eclectic and vibrant as her groundbreaking contributions to the fashion world. She embarked on her journey into matrimony with Derek Westwood on July 21, 1962, and the union brought forth a son, Ben, born in 1963. However, the marriage concluded in 1966.
Her second marriage to Malcolm McLaren, which began in 1967, resulted in the birth of her son Joseph Corré in 1967. Joseph went on to co-found the renowned Agent Provocateur lingerie brand. The union with McLaren extended until 1980.
In a twist of fate that intertwined professional and personal realms, Westwood wed Andreas Kronthaler in May 1992. The marriage endured until her passing in December 2022. Notably, Kronthaler, who became her life partner, was initially a fashion student of Westwood's. Their shared passion for creativity and design defined their personal and professional companionship.
In the year 2000, Andreas Kronthaler played a pivotal role in persuading Westwood to relocate from her former council flat in Clapham to a historical 300-year-old residence in Clapham, previously owned by Captain Cook's mother. This move marked a symbolic chapter in Westwood's life, representing a fusion of history and modernity.
Beyond the realms of fashion, Westwood was a fervent vegetarian and a practitioner of Taoism. Her commitment to ethical living extended to her participation in a PETA ad campaign, advocating for vegetarianism and World Water Day.
Westwood's philanthropic endeavors manifested in various forms. In 2005, she designed limited edition t-shirts and baby clothing to generate funds for Liberty, a British civil rights organization. A notable shift in her political allegiance occurred in 2007 when Westwood announced her decision to switch support from the Labour Party to the Conservative Party, driven by concerns regarding human rights and civil liberties.
Throughout the years, Westwood actively engaged in activism. In 2008, she participated in a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstration at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, aligning her advocacy with larger societal concerns.
The evolution of her political affiliations continued in 2015 when Westwood expressed her support for the Green Party, emphasizing her belief in its positive impact on the country and the economy. Despite these shifts, she later endorsed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in both the 2017 and 2019 general elections, underscoring her commitment to progressive ideals.
Her voice in the political sphere grew louder as, in November 2019, Westwood signed a letter of support that hailed Corbyn as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in much of the democratic world."

Death Of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood wearing a gray coat dress
Vivienne Westwood wearing a gray coat dress
On December 29, 2022, the world bid farewell to the iconic Dame Vivienne Westwood, who passed away at the age of 81. Her demise marked the end of an era in the fashion industry, leaving a void that resonated across the globe.
The news of her passing was disseminated by her eponymous fashion house through social media, where a poignant statement revealed, "Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better."
The announcement sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes from celebrities, showcasing the profound impact Westwood had on both the fashion community and popular culture. Icons such as Paul McCartney, Chrissie Hynde, Boy George, Simon LeBon, and Russell Brand took to social media to express their condolences and share personal reflections on the indomitable legacy she left behind.
In February 2023, a fitting memorial was held at London's Southwark Cathedral, attracting luminaries from the fashion world and beyond. The solemn gathering saw the presence of influential figures such as Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, and Elle Fanning. Helena Bonham Carter, a collaborator and friend, delivered a heartfelt eulogy at the service, capturing the essence of Westwood's unparalleled contributions to fashion and society.

Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Vivienne Westwood

  • Many might not be aware that Vivienne Westwood's son is none other than Joseph Corre, the innovative entrepreneur behind the renowned lingerie brand "Agent Provocateur," showcasing the familial impact on the world of fashion.
  • The influence of Vivienne Westwood transcends fashion and resonates in the music industry. The accomplished designer is celebrated in Gwen Stefani's song "Rich Girl," where the No Doubt frontwoman pays homage to Westwood, highlighting her cultural significance.
  • Vivienne Westwood not only shaped the fashion landscape herself but also played a role in fostering talent within her family. Serena Rees, the former mother-in-law of Westwood, further reinforces the family's imprint on the fashion world.
  • Unlike many designers who start their careers early, Vivienne Westwood's journey in the world of fashion began when she was 30 years old. This late start only adds to the remarkable narrative of her groundbreaking career.
  • In 2006, Vivienne Westwood received the prestigious Dame Commander of the British Empire award in the Queen's New Year's Honours List, a testament to her immeasurable contributions to the world of fashion.
  • Even before her Damehood, Westwood had already been recognized for her significant impact on the fashion industry with the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) award in 1992.
  • In a fascinating intersection of fashion and celebrity, Vivienne Westwood designed the wedding dress for the iconic burlesque performer Dita Von Teese on her nuptials to Marilyn Manson, showcasing Westwood's versatility in couture.
  • Vivienne Westwood's companion from the mid-'60s to the late '70s was none other than Malcolm McLaren, a collaboration that not only left an indelible mark on the fashion world but also shaped the cultural landscape during that period.
  • Westwood is a mother to two sons: Ben, from her first marriage to Derek Westwood, and Joseph Corre, her son with long-time companion Malcolm McLaren. This familial aspect adds a personal touch to her multifaceted life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Did Vivienne Westwood Grow Up?

Vivienne Westwood was born in Tintwistle, Cheshire, England. She later moved to Harrow, Greater London, with her family in 1958.

What Inspired Vivienne Westwood's Fashion Designs?

Westwood drew inspiration from various sources, including punk rock, historical periods, and environmental activism, infusing her designs with a unique blend of rebellion and avant-garde aesthetics.

How Many Stores Does Vivienne Westwood Have Worldwide?

There were more than 70 Vivienne Westwood stores worldwide, including 12 in the U.K. and 18 in South Korea.

Did Vivienne Westwood Design For Any Celebrities Other Than Dita Von Teese?

Yes, Westwood's designs gained widespread acclaim, and she designed outfits for various celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, whose character wore a Vivienne Westwood wedding gown in the "Sex and the City" movie.

Conclusion - Vivienne Westwood

As the world of fashion perpetually evolves, Vivienne Westwood remains an immutable force, a beacon of creativity, and a fearless advocate for change. Her legacy extends far beyond the confines of couture, reflecting a narrative of resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of self-expression.
From the iconic punk aesthetic that defined an era to the forefront of sustainable fashion advocacy, Westwood's influence continues to resonate, inspiring designers, activists, and fashion enthusiasts alike. In a world where the avant-garde meets the socially conscious, Vivienne Westwood's name stands as a testament to the enduring power of style, rebellion, and the unwavering belief that fashion can be a force for positive change.
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