Panicacci Highlights Vivian Westwood Renowned Legacy

By: Lucy Panicacci

Culture Editor

On Dec. 29, 2022, the fashion icon and designer Dame Vivienne Westwood passed away at 81 years old. She died surrounded by family in Clapham, South London. Alongside her former boyfriend Malcolm McLaren, Westwood revolutionized punk and politics in fashion, making a name as the godmother of punk. “I don’t think punk would have happened without Vivienne and Malcolm,” Chrissie Hynde stated in Westwood’s 2014 memoir. She added, “Something would have happened [without Westwood], and it might have been called punk, but it wouldn’t have looked the way it did, even in America. And the look was important.” 

The fashion genius was born on April 8, 1941, in Tintwistle, Cheshire. At 16 years old, her family moved to London. After briefly attending Harrow Art School, Westwood went to secretarial college before deciding to become a teacher. In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, Westwood declared, “I was a very good teacher. Except I always liked the kids that everyone else thought were a pain… The little rebels.”

Similar to her teaching mentality, Westwood pioneered changes in the fashion industry by using unconventional designs. At 30, Westwood and her boyfriend Malcolm McLaren opened a 1950s inspired shop, Let It Rock, on 430 King’s Road in London. Over the years, they changed the shop’s name multiple times from Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die in 1972, to Seditionaries in 1976, and lastly, World’s End in 1979. Shortly after the opening, Westwood started making her own designs, growing vast acclaim and attention. Making the 1981 British Vogue cover, Westwood’s most iconic collection was her 1981 Pirate Collection, full of frilly blouses and jacquard pants. 

With her corsets and platform shoes growing as a fashion staple, Westwood’s garments entered mainstream fashion, styling high fashion models and celebrities like Miley Cyrus. Véronique Hyland stated in reference to Westwood, “She was influenced by art history, old master paintings. She’s very focused on the English tradition of tailoring.” 

In Westwood’s 2014 memoir titled Vivienne Westwood, she gave more detail into her thought-process: “It’s not about fashion, you see. For me, it’s about the story. It’s about ideas.” She continued, “I did not see myself as a fashion designer but as someone who wished to confront the rotten status quo through the way I dressed and dressed others.” 

In 1990 and 1991, the British Fashion Council named Westwood the designer of the year. Adhering to her unconventional and rebellious style, she wore no underwear when receiving the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992. 

Global editorial director of Vogue, Anna Wintour, concluded, “Dame Vivienne Westwood was an extraordinary talent: an innovative and influential designer, and an iconoclast who pursued every belief and passion with a rare fervor.”

(Sources: NY Times, Vogue)

Categories: Culture

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