Posted on by Cameron Tewson

Dame Vivienne Westwood, the trailblazing British fashion designer who brought punk and politics to the rarefied world of high fashion, has died on 29 December, aged 81. She passed away peacefully and surrounded by her family in Clapham, South London, a representative for Westwood confirmed.


In a statement, her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart. “We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you darling.”

Before the bustles, bustiers, and bottom paddings, the tartan and tailoring, Vivienne Isabel Swire was born on 8 April, 1941, in the village of Tintwistle, Cheshire, to a sausage factory worker father Gordon and greengrocer’s assistant mother Dora. She attended Glossop Grammar School before moving to the London suburb of Harrow in 1957, where her parents ran a post office. Westwood then took a silversmithing course for a term at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), but feeling daunted by the art world, she enrolled at secretarial college instead and later trained as a teacher. At a dance in 1961, she met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice, and married him – wearing her own design – in 1962. They had a son together, Benjamin Westwood, born in 1963, but split up when he was three.

As much as Westwood retains a place in fashion history, she flourished as a fashion historian throughout her seven-decade career. From her billowing Pirate shirts, 1990s tartan derriere padding, and 1980s mini-crinis were all inspired by 17th-century style, while her Empress Josephine gowns and abundance of corsets originated in 18th-century dress. Westwood’s name is also stitched to some of the most memorable moments in fashion – among them Naomi Campbell crashing down from purple python platforms on the runway for autumn/winter 1993, and a near-naked Kate Moss eating ice cream while wearing a miniskirt, hat, and heels for spring/summer 1995 to the ever-famous 2000’s pirate boots worn by Sienna Miller and Kate Moss becoming one of the hottest accessory.

Westwood famously collected her OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 wearing no knickers. “I wished to show off my outfit by twirling the skirt,” she said. “It did not occur to me that, as the photographers were practically on their knees, the result would be more glamorous than I expected… I have heard that the picture amused the Queen.” Westwood became a dame in 2006 and her designs have have been worn by clients as diverse as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (now Queen Consort), Princess Eugenie and Miley Cyrus, who married Liam Hemsworth wearing a Westwood dress in 2018.

Westwood’s moves with Her Majesty had always been risqué. To mark the Silver Jubilee in 1977, the designer pierced the lip of the Queen’s printed face with safety pins on God Save the Queen T-shirts designed for the Sex Pistols. 

Her namesake label carries couture, bridal, and men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections where Andreas Kronthaler became creative director in 2016.


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