Vivienne Westwood

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Dame Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood 2014.jpg
Westwood in 2014
Born Vivienne Isabel Swire
(1941-04-08) 8 April 1941 (age 73)
Tintwistle, Cheshire (now Derbyshire), England
Nationality British
Education University of Westminster, Middlesex University
Occupation Fashion designer/Businesswoman
Spouse(s) Derek Westwood (1962–65) (divorced); 1 child
Andreas Kronthaler (since 1992)
Children Ben Westwood (born 1963)
Joseph Corré (born 1967)
Awards British Fashion Designer of the Year (1990, 1991 and 2006)
Labels Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood, DBE, RDI (born Vivienne Isabel Swire on 8 April 1941) is an English fashion designer and businesswoman, largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream.[1]

Westwood came to public notice when she made clothes for Malcolm McLaren's boutique in the King's Road, which became famous as "SEX". It was their ability to synthesise clothing and music that shaped the 1970s UK punk scene, dominated by McLaren's band, the Sex Pistols. She was deeply inspired by the shock-value of punk - "seeing if one could put a spoke in the system".

Westwood went on to open four shops in London, eventually expanding throughout the United Kingdom and the world, selling an increasingly varied range of merchandise, some of it linked to her many political causes such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, climate change and the civil rights group Liberty. She has been twice married, and has two children.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in the village of Tintwistle, Derbyshire[N 1] on 8 April 1941,[2] the daughter of Gordon Swire and Dora Swire (née Ball), who had married two years previously, two weeks after the outbreak of World War II.[3] At the time of Vivienne's birth, her father was employed as a storekeeper in an aircraft factory; he had previously worked as a greengrocer.[3] She attended Glossop Grammar School.

Aged 17 in 1958, Vivienne and her family moved to Harrow, London. She attended the Harrow School of Art,[4] taking fashion and silversmithing, but left after one term saying, "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could possibly make a living in the art world".[5] After taking up a job in a factory and studying at a teacher-training college, she became a primary school teacher.[2] During this period, she also created her own jewellery, which she would sell at a stall on Portobello Road.[2]

In 1962, Vivienne Swire met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice, in Harrow.[6] They married on 21 July 1962 and Vivienne made her own wedding dress for the ceremony.[6] In 1963, she gave birth to a son, Benjamin Westwood.[6]

Malcolm McLaren[edit]

When she met Malcolm McLaren, it meant the end of Westwood's marriage to Derek. Westwood and McLaren moved to a council flat in Clapham. Westwood continued to teach until 1971 when Malcolm decided to open a boutique at 430 King's Road called "Let It Rock" (later known variously as "Sex", "Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die", and "Seditionaries") and now Worlds Ends, where Westwood sells her Vivienne Westwood label clothing.

Westwood created clothes which McLaren conceived, drawing inspiration from bikers, fetishists and prostitutes.[7] During this period, McLaren became manager of the punk band, the Sex Pistols, and subsequently the two garnered attention as the band wore Westwood's and McLaren's designs. In 1967, while living in Clapham, Westwood and McLaren had a son, Joseph Corré.[8]

Punk era[edit]

She was deeply interested in the punk fashion phenomenon of the 1970s, saying "I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way".[6] The "punk style" included BDSM fashion, bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle or lavatory chains on clothing and spiked dog collars for jewellery, as well as outrageous make-up and hair. Essential design elements include the adoption of traditional elements of Scottish design such as tartan fabric. Among the more unusual elements of her style is the use of historical 17th- and 18th-century cloth-cutting principles, and reinterpreting these in, for instance, radical cutting lines to men's trousers. Use of these traditional elements make the overall effect of her designs more "shocking".

Fashion collections[edit]

The pair of heels designed by Westwood in which Naomi Campbell famously stumbled while modelling at Westwood's fashion show in 1993[9]

McLaren and Westwood's first fashion collection to be shown to press and potential international buyers was Pirate. Subsequently the partnership of McLaren and Westwood - which was underlined by the fact that both their names appeared on all labelling - showed collections in Paris and London with the thematic titles Savages (shown autumn 1981), Buffalo/Nostalgia Of Mud (shown spring 1982), Punkature (shown autumn 1982), Witches (shown spring 1983) and Worlds End 1984 (later renamed Hypnos, shown autumn 1983).[10] After the partnership with McLaren was dissolved, Westwood showed one more collection featuring the Worlds End label: "Clint Eastwood" (Autumn–Winter 1984–85).

She dubbed the period 1981 to 1985 "New Romantic" and 1988–91 as "The Pagan Years" during which "Vivienne’s heroes changed from punks and ragamuffins to ‘Tatler’ girls wearing clothes that parodied the upper class."

Her Autumn/Winter 2005–06 Propaganda Collection drew inspiration from her archive, reinterpreting designs using Wolford's exclusive knitting technology. Westwood has worked in close collaboration with Wolford since 2003.[citation needed] In 2006, she collaborated with Nine West, whose shoes are not designed directly by Westwood; however, the Nine West brand name shares its label with Westwood. Westwood's Gold Label and MAN hats are created by Prudence Millinery. In 12 November 2004 – 30 January 2005, she was featured in a retrospective show "Vivienne Westwood - 34 years in fashion" at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The exhibition, created from approximately 145 complete outfits grouped into the themes from the early 1970s to the present day, was drawn from her own personal archive and the V&A's extensive collection. The designs ranged from early punk garments to glamorous "historical" evening gowns.[citation needed]

In July 2011, Westwood's collections were presented at the catwalk of The Brandery fashion show in Barcelona.[11]

Vivienne Westwood companies[edit]

In March 2012, Vivienne Westwood Group reached agreement to end a long-standing UK franchise relationship with Manchester-based Hervia.

The deal brought to a conclusion a legal wrangle which included Hervia issuing High Court proceedings for alleged breach of contract, after Westwood sought to end the franchise deal before the agreed term. It was reported that a financial settlement was reached between the parties. Hervia operated seven stores for the fashion chain on a franchise basis. [12]

In 2013 this transition of some of the Hervia stores to Westwood, along with cost-savings, was credited for a jump in Vivienne Westwood Ltd's pre-tax profits to £5million from £527,6783 the previous year, with annual group sales of £30.1million up from £25.4million. [13]

In 2014 the company results showed “disappointing” sales with a dip of 2% to £29.5 million and a fall of 36% in pre-tax profits to £3.2 million in 2013, according to accounts posted at Companies House. The company announced: “Over the last year margins have been under pressure due to the nature of wider retail conditions.”[14]

Early in 2014 Westwood vowed to curtail the environmental impact of her fashion business by downscaling her operations.[15]

Vivienne Westwood store in Cardiff

In 2015 Vivienne Westwood Ltd operated 12 retail outlets in the UK, including an outlet store in Bicester Village. The company also operates two in the US: one in Los Angeles and the other in Hawaii.[16]

Notable clients and commissions[edit]

Marion Cotillard wore a Westwood red satin strapless dress at the London premiere of her film Public Enemies in 2009.[17] In 2013, she wore a Westwood Couture pink and ivory striped dress at the Chopard Lunch in Cannes.[18]

Princess Eugenie wore three different Westwood designs for the pre-wedding dinner, the wedding ceremony and the after-wedding party at the 2011 royal wedding.[19]

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wore Westwood to Royal Ascot in 2009.[20]

Gwen Stefani wore a Westwood corset in the No Doubt video for the song "Spiderwebs".

Pharrell Williams wore a Westwood Buffalo hat to the 2014 56th Annual Grammy Awards that was originally in her 1982-83 collection. The hat was so popular that it inspired its own Twitter account. Pharrell was first seen wearing a similar Westwood Buffalo hat in 2009.[21]

Artistic influence[edit]

Westwood has influenced the launch of the careers of other designers into the British fashion industry. She employed the services of Patrick Cox to design shoes for her "Clint Eastwood" collection in 1984. The result was a prototype for nine-inch-heeled shoes like the ones worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell when she fell during a Westwood fashion show in Paris in 1993.[citation needed]

Sex and the City[edit]

Westwood's designs were featured in the 2008 film adaptation of the television series Sex and the City. In the film, Carrie Bradshaw becomes engaged to long-term lover Mr. Big. Being a writer at Vogue, she is invited by her editor to model wedding dresses, including a design made by Westwood. The dress is subsequently sent to Carrie as a gift, with a handwritten note from Westwood herself, and Carrie decides to use the Westwood gown.

However, despite being invited to participate in the making of the movie, Westwood was unimpressed with the costuming by renowned stylist Patricia Field. She walked out of the film's London premiere after 10 minutes, publicly criticising the clothing featured as being frumpy and boring.[citation needed] The wedding dress has been described as one of the movie's most iconic features, leading Westwood to approach the producers about being involved in making a sequel.[22]

Political involvement[edit]

Westwood is widely known as a political activist. She was a long-standing supporter of the Labour Party before becoming a supporter of the Conservative Party in 2007. Since early 2015, she has been a supporter of the Green Party of England and Wales.

In April 1989 Westwood appeared on the cover of Tatler dressed as then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The suit that Westwood wore had been ordered for Thatcher but had not yet been delivered.[23] Westwood's appearance on Tatler reportedly infuriated Thatcher.[23] The cover, which bore the caption "This woman was once a punk", has become memorable cover for the magazine and was included in The Guardian '​s list of the best ever UK magazine covers.[24] Additionally, the cover date, April 1989, on the magazine bears the words "April fool".[25]

Dame Vivienne stated on television in 2007 that she had transferred her long-standing support for the Labour Party to the Conservative Party, over the issues of civil liberties and human rights.[26]

On Easter Sunday 2008, she campaigned in person at the biggest Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstration in ten years, at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire.[27]

In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with the British civil rights group Liberty and launched exclusive limited design T-shirts and babywear bearing the slogan I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don't arrest me. She said she was supporting the campaign and defending habeas corpus. "When I was a schoolgirl, my history teacher, Mr. Scott, began to take classes in civic affairs. The first thing he explained to us was the fundamental rule of law embodied in habeas corpus. He spoke with pride of civilisation and democracy. The hatred of arbitrary arrest by the lettres de cachet of the French monarchy caused the storming of the Bastille. We can only take democracy for granted if we insist on our liberty", she said.[28] The sale of the £50 T-shirts raised funds for the organisation.

Setting her A/W 2011 campaign against the backdrop of a Nairobi slum, Dame Vivienne aimed to draw attention to her partnership with the Ethical Fashion Africa Programme. One journalist referred to the campaign as ‘poverty porn cliché,’ while others admired her attempt to draw attention to ethical abuses in fashion and her motto of ‘This is not Charity, this is work’.

In June 2013, Westwood dedicated one of her collections to Chelsea Manning and at her fashion show she and all of her models wore large image badges of Manning with the word "TRUTH" under her picture.[29]

In 2014, she cut off her hair because, according to her spokesman, "we must all wake up to Climate Change."[30] She also appeared in a PETA ad campaign to promote World Water Day, drawing attention to the meat industry's water consumption.[31]

In 2014 Vivienne Westwood became ambassador for clean energy Trillion Fund.[32]

In early 2015, Westwood announced her support of the Green Party of England and Wales, stating 'I am investing in the Green Party because I believe it is in the best interests of our country and our economy'.[33] It was reported that she plans to donate £300000 to the party.[34] In February 2015, it was announced that she would be touring English universities to promoted the party to students. The university cities include Liverpool, Norwich, Brighton and Sheffield.[35]

Active Resistance manifesto[edit]

In a 2007 interview she spoke out against what she perceive as the "drug of consumerism",[36] and in 2009 she attended the première of The Age of Stupid, a film aimed at motivating the public to act against climate change.[37]

She later created a manifesto called Active Resistance to Propaganda,[38][clarification needed] which deals with the pursuit of art in relation to the human predicament and climate change.[39] In her manifesto, she "penetrates to the root of the human predicament and offers the underlying solution. We have the choice to become more cultivated and therefore more human – or by muddling along as usual we shall remain the destructive and self-destroying animal, the victim of our own cleverness."[40]

Against the claim that anti-consumerism and fashion contradict each other, she said in 2007: "I don't feel comfortable defending my clothes. But if you've got the money to afford them, then buy something from me. Just don't buy too much."[39] Still, she faces criticism, mainly from eco-activists who claim that despite her calls to save the environment, she herself makes no concessions to making her clothing or her business eco-friendly at all.[41]

Vivienne Westwood's London[edit]

In January 2011, Westwood was featured in a Canadian-made television documentary called Vivienne Westwood's London in which she takes the viewer through her favourite parts of London, including the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Wallace Collection, Whitechapel (accompanied by Sarah Stockbridge), Hampton Court, the London Symphony Orchestra, Brixton Market and Electric Avenue, and the National Gallery. Her purpose, she said, was to share her love of high culture and to impress its importance on the current generation: "I love this city and its culture. I want to encourage people to love art and believe that culture can save the world. Culture is about people's outlook on the world and along with art, is the anchor that holds us together as a people and gives life greater meaning."[42]


In 1992, Westwood was awarded an OBE, which she collected from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.[43] At the ceremony, Westwood was knicker-less, which was later captured by a photographer in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace. Westwood later said, "I wished to show off my outfit by twirling the skirt. It did not occur to me that, as the photographers were practically on their knees, the result would be more glamorous than I expected,"[44] and added: "I have heard that the picture amused the Queen."[44] Westwood advanced from OBE to DBE in the 2006 New Year's Honours List "for services to fashion",[43] and has twice earned the award for British Designer of the Year.

Authorised biography and plagiarism case[edit]

In October 2014, following the publication of the authorised biography Vivienne Westwood by the fashion designer and her co-author Ian Kelly, UK writer Paul Gorman accused the authors and the publisher Picador of plagiarising substantial sections of material from his book The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion. [45]

Gorman also described the Westwood biography as "sloppy" and "riddled with inaccuracies" on the basis of multiple errors in the book including misspelling the names of popular rock stars “Jimmy” Hendrix and Pete “Townsend” and misidentifying the date of the Sex Pistols’ first concert and McLaren’s age when he died in 2010. Gorman also claimed that the book contained serious libels against two individuals, one of whom was claimed to be dead by Westwood when in fact the individual was alive and practising as a therapist in west London. [46]

Picador publisher Paul Baggaley told The Bookseller: “We always take very seriously any errors that are brought to our attention and, where appropriate, correct them." [47] A spokesman for Pan MacMillan, which published an Australian edition of the biography, confirmed that the matter was being handled by the publisher's lawyers. [48]

Personal life[edit]

Westwood is married to her former fashion student, Austrian Andreas Kronthaler. For 30 years she lived in an ex-council flat in Nightingale Lane, Clapham,[49] until, in 2000, Kronthaler convinced her to move into a Queen Anne style house built in 1703, which once belonged to the mother of Captain Cook.[50] Westwood does not watch television or read newspapers or magazines; however she is a keen gardener.[51]



  1. ^ Westwood was born in Tintwistle, but at the time of her birth in 1941 Tintwistle was within of the county of Cheshire. Since 1974, Tintwistle has fallen under the boundaries of the county of Derbyshire.


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External links[edit]