If the phrase ‘81 years young’ could be used for anyone, it would be fitting Dame Vivienne Westwood, the rebel with many causes who pushed the boundaries with every move she made. The sad news of her passing on 29th December 2022, was a moment in history when we lost one of our most precious, original, and authentic designers. Never again will the rafters of the fashion and design industry be shaken with such exuberance. Her name is synonymous with rebellious rhythms which stormed the scene with reverberations of anarchism and a call for mediocrity to be banished.
She was a British icon, pioneer, punk queen, fashion designer, and activist.
Westwood’s fashion journey began with her partner Malcolm Maclaren (future manager of the Sex Pistols), in their boutique in London. She used vintage clothes and re-designed them to have all the energy and deconstructed mess which blazed through the punk era. Her style was provocative, anti-establishment, and subversive. She used historical references with overtly political statements, romantic themes combining juxtaposed fierce statement pieces.
By 1985, Westwood had blazed her own trail through fashion and became eponymous with rebellious style and substance. She helped create a counterculture through fashion, enthusiastically gaining notoriety for her strong views, never afraid to stand up for her beliefs. Her often flame coloured hair lighted up culture as much as her emblazoned words of power.
As with all great designers, Westwood was no stranger to the struggle of protecting her Intellectual Property (IP) rights. In 2010, she had to undergo a court case against a ‘Mr. Knight’ for infringement of some of her trademarked designs. She ultimately won, with a judgement of over £60,000 to be paid by Mr. Knight.
Vivienne subscribed to activism vivaciously, having trapped herself in a large cage, dressed in canary yellow outside the Old Baily Court, for her friend Julian Assange. She drove a tank to then Prime Minister, David Cameron’s home in a protest opposing fracking. She could often be seen riding her bike around London as a part of her conviction against climate change. Julian Assange called her ‘The Best of Britain.’
Westwood, a designer and advocate of sustainable fashion, had said, “Buy less clothes, keep wearing things that you’ve chosen, that you really love and that is status, you don’t need to keep on consuming. If you invest in art, if you study yourself, art, you become a freedom fighter immediately because your life changes, you get off the consumer treadmill, you start thinking.“
Dids Macdonald OBE., CEO of ACID, said, “It is said that a trailblazer is a pioneer, somebody who’s willing to take risks and tread a path that doesn’t exist. Westwood did this and more, she used her inimitable courage not only to think outside the box but carved a career believing that boxes did not exist. Above all, she walked the talk about issues that mattered to her, fearlessly and with passion.”
Westwood created fashion that raged against conformity and the status quo, making it accessible to everyone. She used it has a voice to speak up for her political and social beliefs and amplified causes for us all. Her fashion shows would often have protest banners being held, which elevated her fashion shows to be both beautiful and profound.
Rest in power Dame Vivienne Westwood.
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