On December 29, Vivienne Westwood passed away in her Clapham, London home. She was 81.
To call Vivienne Westwood influential is to understate the immense impact that the designer had upon the fashion industry and all who go against the grain.
Westwood got her start in fashion by not actually getting her start in fashion. In the ’70s, Westwood and partner Malcom McLaren — who passed in 2010 — opened the explosive SEX clothing store in London, selling what became known as punk fashion: leather jackets, borderline deconstructed knitwear, bondage pants, and, of course, ripped T-shirts screenprinted with graphics intended to terrify society’s staid upper crust.
Nowadays, several of those T-shirt designs issued through Westwood and McLaren’s Seditionaries label have inspired plenty of parodies, bootlegs, and homages. Occasionally, Westwood would recreate the early designs produced under Seditionaries, World’s End, and her other early labels.
Westwood and McLaren eventually took their show on the road and began showing their collections in Paris. There, she introduced garments that’d become Vivienne Westwood signatures, including the mini-crini dress, rocking horse shoes, and Buffalo hat, which Pharrell would make viral in 2014.
Vivienne Westwood collections were fiery condemnations of conformity and convention, deconstructing Paris’ stuffy runways with punkish flair. It’s safe to say that Westwood at least partially blazed the way for the next several generations of enfants terrible, like Alexander McQueen and COMME des GARÇONS founder Rei Kawakubo.
Kawakubo admired Westwood plenty: they collaborated on a line of clothing in 2003 and Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market stores have previously stocked both A Child of the Jago, the clothing line founded by Westwood and McLaren’s son Joseph Corré, and the recent Vivienne Westwood x ASICS line.
In recent years, Westwood ceded design direction of her eponymous label to husband Andreas Kronthaler, who will continue overseeing the Vivienne Westwood brand.
Not that she was resting on her laurels in the meantime: Westwood remained a devoted activist until the end, calling for more attention to climate change and the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, to whom she dedicated the Spring/Summer 2017 Vivienne Westwood collection.
“Capitalism is a crime. It is the root cause of war, climate change, and corruption,” Westwood said before her passing. “This is a war for the very existence of the human race. And that of the planet. The most important weapon we have is public opinion. Become a freedom fighter.”