December 29, 2022 |
British designer Vivienne Westwood, known as fashion’s “high priestess of punk,” died on Thursday, December 29 at the age of 81.
Westwood’s namesake fashion house tweeted that she passed away “peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London.”
The brand also shared the sad news on Instagram, writing, “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better. She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.”
Westwood’s decades-long design career began in the 1970s — shortly after she met Malcom McLaren, who would go on to manage the Sex Pistols. Together, Westwood and McLaren opened their famous Sex boutique on King’s Road in London, which sold provocative fetish-inspired fashions befitting its name (of which it’d cycle through several over the years).
“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,” Westwood once said of her work.
She and McLaren began showing their own collections in the early 1980s, blending the edgy punk references they knew and loved with elements of new romanticism; her now-signature corsets and the “mini-crini,” a short and sexy version of the Victorian crinoline, exemplified this aesthetic.
And Westwood’s behavior was as subversive as her style; in 1992, she arrived at Buckingham Palace to receive an an Order of the British Empire (OBE) from the Queen, twirled for the cameras — and revealed she was going commando beneath her seemingly conservative skirt suit.
While undoubtedly eye-catching, Westwood’s creations — which have ranged from T-shirts printed with naked breasts to pirate hats — have occasionally sacrificed practicality for impact. During her iconic 1993 “Anglomania” show, she sent out models wearing platform heels so perilously high, Naomi Campbell famously took a tumble right on the runway.
In more recent years, Westwood’s draped and corseted designs have become favorites of celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, Hailey Baldwin and Olivia Rodrigo, to name but a few.
When Dita Von Teese married Marilyn Manson in 2006, she did so dressed in purple Westwood; Princess Eugenie donned three different looks by the designer for Kate Middleton and Prince William’s royal wedding in 2011.
A Vivienne Westwood wedding dress was famously featured in the 2008 “Sex and the City” movie, with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw selecting a voluminous strapless gown by the designer for her wedding to Chris Noth’s Mr. Big — and while not all viewers loved the bridal style, perhaps that was the point.
“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity’,” the flame-haired designer wrote in her 2014 biography. “Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”