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Vivienne Westwood

The designer who sent punk down the runway

Vivienne Westwood

Drawing inspiration from bikers and BDSM fetish wear, to costumes and cutting techniques of the 17th and 18th centuries, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood shocked the British fashion establishment and altered the course of couture. Her first foray into fashion was a collaboration with Sex Pistols manager Malcom McLaren for his London shop, opened in 1971, and a decade later she presented her first catwalk show, entitled “Pirates.” Her new romantic style was a dominant force in 1980s fashion, and her designs have continued to have a strong impact on clothing and style today. Most famously, Vivienne Westwood brought punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream consciousness.

The British fashion designer’s oeuvre is steeped in an Anglomania that ranges from reinterpretations of Victorian dress, the tartan fabric of traditional Scottish design, and the punk fashion phenomenon of the 70s. Westwood’s collections have always embodied the idea of clothes as cultural statement and her ties to the punk movement illuminate this. Along with her designs for both men and women that play with gender binaries, her involvement in climate change activism and animal welfare organizations like PETA, have marked her as a politically engaged public figure.

Pieces from Westwood’s label appear in many TASCHEN fashion design books. Her unmistakable shoes, bags, jewelry, boots, bridal gowns, and dresses all feature. i-D creator Terry Jones curates the very best of Westwood in an XL anthology and Vivienne herself has hand-crafted a Collector’s Edition cover for the sumptuous book Her Majesty, a remarkable testament to her affinity with British culture and history. While Dame Westwood (OBE) continues to find success in the world of luxury goods, her punk roots always pervade and, true to form, whether in a frayed tulle and tweed suit or a DIY mini-crini, her unconventional and anti-consumerist attitude lives on.