Vivienne Westwood

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Dame Vivienne Westwood
DBE RDI
Vivienne Westwood 2014.jpg
Westwood in 2014
Born Vivienne Isabel Swire
(1941-04-08) 8 April 1941 (age 74)
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, Westwood's family moved to Harrow, London. She studied silver-smithing at Harrow School of Art,[4] but left after one term, saying later, "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; Westwood is reported to have made her own wedding dress.[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]

Westwood was one of the architects of 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 2007, Westwood was called upon to design an academic gown of a prestigious academic institution. She was approached by Patricia Rawlings, Baroness Rawlings, then Chairperson of King's College London after King's successfully petitioned the Privy Council for its own right to award degree-awarding powers in its own right.[11] In 2008, the Westwood-designed academic dresses for King's College London have been unveiled. On the gowns, Vivienne Westwood commented: "Through my reworking of the traditional robe I tried to link the past, the present and the future. We are what we know." [11]

In July 2011, Westwood's collections were presented at the catwalk of The Brandery fashion show in Barcelona.[12]

Vivienne Westwood companies[edit]

In August 2011 Westwood's company Vivienne Westwood Ltd agreed to pay almost £350,000 in tax to HM Revenue & Customs for significantly underestimating the value of her own brand.

Westwood's UK business had sold the rights to her trademarks to Luxembourg-based Latimo, which she controls, for just £840,000 in 2002. After examining the deal HMRC argued that Westwood's brand had been undervalued, and, after negotiation, the two sides agreed that her trademarks were worth more than double that amount. The £2m valuation triggered an additional tax bill of £348,463 plus interest of £144,112, which fell due in 2009.[13]

UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported: "However, in a twist that would set tongues wagging on the catwalk, Ms Westwood's UK business has just filed accounts that reveal it has been selling her clothing around the world without permission.

"This oversight has led to her UK company paying a £3m exceptional payment to its Luxembourg-based parent that has had the effect of reducing the UK firm's corporation tax liabilities for 2010 by £840,000."

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.[14]

In 2013 the 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.[15]

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.”[16]

Vivienne Westwood store in Cardiff

In June 2013 Westwood announced that she was shunning further expansion of her business as a way of tackling environmental and sustainability issues. In particular she addressed the world's biggest emerging market: ""I want to backtrack and control (my company)," Westwood said. "I don't want to expand in China any more at the moment.".[17]

Despite the fact that Westwood repeated the vow to curtail the environmental impact of her fashion business by downscaling her operations early in 2014[18] two large new Vivienne Westwood outlets opened in Guangzhou and Zhenzhen, south China, in May 2014.[19]

And 2015 has witnessed a further burst of aggressive expansion activities for the Westwood brand worldwide. In March 2015 the company announced that it is opening a three-storey outlet in midtown Manhattan in autumn 2015.[20] This will be followed by a new 3,200 sq ft shop in a building also housing the company's offices and showrooms in Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, due to open in spring 2016.[21]

In April 2015 the Vivienne Westwood restaurant/cafe was unveiled adjacent to the company's largest Chinese store, in Shanghai's K-11 Mall.[22] Meanwhile a Westwood-designed luxury penthouse suite in the London West Hollywood boutique hotel in Los Angeles opened in May 2015.[23]

In 2015 Vivienne Westwood Ltd operated 12 retail outlets in the UK, including an outlet store in Bicester Village. There are currently 63 Westwood outlets worldwide including 18 in China (including nine in Hong Kong); 18 in South Korea; six in Taiwan; two in Thailand; and two in the US: one in Los Angeles and the other in Hawaii.[24]

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.[25] In 2013, she wore a Westwood Couture pink and ivory striped dress at the Chopard Lunch in Cannes.[26]

Princess Eugenie wore three Westwood designs for the pre-wedding dinner, the wedding ceremony and the after-wedding party at the 2011 royal wedding.[27]

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wore Westwood to Royal Ascot in 2009.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] Westwood's appearance on Tatler reportedly infuriated Thatcher.[31] 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.[32] Additionally, the cover date, April 1989, on the magazine bears the words "April fool".[33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36] 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.[37]

In 2014, she cut off her hair because, according to her spokesman, "we must all wake up to Climate Change."[38] She also appeared in a PETA ad campaign to promote World Water Day, drawing attention to the meat industry's water consumption.[39]

In 2014 Vivienne Westwood became ambassador for clean energy Trillion Fund.[40]

Support of Green Party and exclusion from UK election campaign tour[edit]

In January 2015, Westwood announced her support of the Green Party of England and Wales: "I am investing in the Green Party because I believe it is in the best interests of our country and our economy'.[41] It was reported that she had donated £300,000 to fund the party's election campaign.[42]

In February 2015, Westwood was announced as the special guest on the Greens' 'We Are The Revolution' campaigning tour of English universities in such cities as Liverpool, Norwich, Brighton and Sheffield.[43]

On the eve of the tour, Westwood was excluded from appearing by the youth wing of the Green Party on the basis that her corporate avoidance of UK tax contravenes party policy on usage of off-shore havens. Westwood said: “When we pay royalties to our Luxembourg company the tax on them is paid to the Luxembourg government … But overall our group does not save tax on this. Wherever profits occur all taxes on these profits are ultimately paid in the UK as I personally pay 45 per cent tax on any dividend I receive." [44]

The Green Party announced that it had hired "an independent tax specialist" to review Westwood's corporate tax activities. The Party subsequently sought to distance itself from Westwood following revelations that her companies regularly employ unpaid interns, again in contradiction to Party policy.[45] As a result Westwood was absent from all official Green Party election campaign events.

Westwood later condemned this as "a wasted opportunity" for the Greens. "I wasn't pure enough for them," she wrote in her online diary.[46]

Subsequently, Westwood switched her support to campaigning on behalf of Nigel Askew, the Reality Party candidate opposing UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the Kent constituency of Thanet South.[47] Askew polled 126 votes in the election.[48]

Accusations of hypocrisy over company tax arrangements[edit]

In March 2015 Westwood's support for the Green Party prompted accusations of hypocrisy over her corporate financial arrangements.

Several media outlets reported that the latest accounts for Vivienne Westwood Ltd show the company pays £2 million a year to offshore company Latimo, which was set up in Luxembourg for the right to use her name on her own fashion label: "Tax experts have described the arrangement as 'tax avoidance' that cheats the UK Treasury out of about £500,000 a year. The model is similar to one used by Starbucks, the coffee chain, which found itself at the centre of a protest over its use of Luxembourg to reduce its tax bill in the UK."[49]

Latimo, which Westwood controls as the majority shareholder in her companies, was set up in 2002.[13]

Such arrangements, while legal, are against the Green Party policy to crack down heavily on usage of tax havens such as Luxembourg.[50]

Political website Guido Fawkes reported that in addition to the £2,073,194 paid by VWL in licence fees to Latimo SA, it also paid £4,170,180 to Vivienne Westwood Srl, a subsidiary of Latimo SA, for commission and designer, PR and advertising agreements.

The proposed cross-party Tax Dodging Bill, which is supported by the Green Party, singles out British companies which channel money through Luxembourg, pledging to ban the practice of companies reducing their taxable profits "by having their subsidiaries pay large fees to related companies in tax havens for the use of intellectual property such as brands and software.” [51]

In a statement, Westwood stressed that she paid income tax though did not address the issue of her corporate tax arrangements: "It is important to me that my business affairs are in line with my personal values. I am subject to UK tax on all of my income," she said in March 2015.[52]

In June 2015, Westwood reported in her online diary that the media coverage - which she described as "a smear" - prompted a review of her company's financing and tax arrangements.

"First I went through everything with my accountants, asking questions. I wished to make a simple statement but I kept thinking I needed to supply some detail, but every time I tried the detail led to more detail and I found myself at every spare moment and in the middle of the night holding imaginary conversations with the world at large explaining why I had not morally avoided paying tax."

Westwood also published a statement which indicated that her corporate tax arrangements are being restructured as a result of the expose:

"We are an international company with international directors. We have a holding company by which we pay the right amount of tax internationally. When I take profit from the company it comes to me in the form of a dividend on which I pay full income tax in England. I am not a non-dom. I live here. There is a re-structuring now in tax practice which we have just adopted. We are happy to be part of the change." [46]

Active Resistance manifesto[edit]

In a 2007 interview Westwood spoke out against what she perceive as the "drug of consumerism",[53] and in 2009 she attended the première of The Age of Stupid, a film aimed at motivating the public to act against climate change.[54]

She later created a manifesto called Active Resistance to Propaganda,[55][clarification needed] which she says deals with the pursuit of art in relation to the human predicament and climate change.[56] 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."[57]

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."[56] 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.[58]

Questions over sustainability of Westwood clothing[edit]

In 2013, sustainable luxury fashion publication Eluxe Magazine accused Westwood of cynically using the green movement as a marketing tool on the basis that certain Westwood fashion and accessories lines are made in China. These were found to include PVC, polyester, rayon and viscose, all derived from harmful chemicals. Eluxe also pointed out that, in spite of Westwood's exhortations that consumers should 'buy less', her company produces nine collections a year (compared to the average designer's two).[59]

In February 2015 Westwood was accused of "not speaking with one voice" on the issue of sustainability after revelations that shoes sold on her website are made from 100% PVC, a derivative of fossil fuels, oil and natural gas. A spokeswoman for Westwood responded: "All clothing and accessories, whatever they are made of, have some impact on the environment. These shoes are produced in Italy. They have been developed using carefully selected materials and processes with a view to reducing the impact their production cycle has on the planet."[60]

In March 2015 the Sunday Times reported that a dress produced by Westwood as a protest against fracking is made from environmentally damaging material: "It is made of viscose, a silky fabric made by treating wood pulp with chemicals including caustic soda and sulphuric acid. Viscose is rated a “class E” fibre, the most environmentally damaging out of five categories, by Made-By, a not-for-profit consultancy that helps brands be greener." Westwood's company stated: "We have never claimed to be a totally green company. All clothing and accessories, whatever they are made of, have some impact on the environment. However, as Vivienne wishes her company to reflect her personal views, we are working to reduce that impact."[61]

Recognition[edit]

In 1992, Westwood was awarded an OBE, which she collected from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.[62] 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,"[63] and added: "I have heard that the picture amused the Queen."[63] Westwood advanced from OBE to DBE in the 2006 New Year's Honours List "for services to fashion",[62] 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.[64]

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.[65]

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." [66] 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.[67]

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,[68] 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.[69] Westwood does not watch television or read newspapers or magazines; however she is a keen gardener.[70]

Children[edit]

Notes[edit]

  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.

References[edit]

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