English fashion designer and entrepreneur Dame Vivienne Westwood is largely recognized for popularising modern punk and new wave trends.
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Vivienne Westwood first gained attention when she began creating clothing for the SEX boutique that she and Malcolm McLaren owned on King’s Road. The 1970s UK punk culture, which was dominated by McLaren’s band, the Sex Pistols, was influenced by their ability to combine dress and music. She saw punk as a means of “testing if one could put a spoke in the system.”
Westwood began by opening four stores in London and later spread to other countries in Europe and the rest of the world. She sold a wider variety of goods, some of which supported her many political causes, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, environmental protection, and civil rights organizations.
Life and Career
Westwood was born on April 8, 1941, in the village of Tintwistle. Her parents, Gordon Swire and Dora Swire had wed two years earlier, just two weeks after the Second World War had begun. When Vivienne was born, her father was working as a storekeeper in an aircraft manufacturing facility he had previously been a greengrocer.
When her family relocated to Harrow, Greater London, in 1958, Westwood enrolled in a jewellery and silversmithing course known as the University of Westminster.However, she dropped out after one term because she “didn’t know how a working-class girl could possibly make a living in the art world.”She became a primary school teacher after getting a job in a factory and enrolled in a teacher-training college. She made her own jewellery during this time and sold it from a stall on Portobello Road.
She met Derek Westwood, an apprentice at the Hoover factory, in Harrow in 1962. On July 21, 1962, Westwood made her own wedding gown. She gave birth to Benjamin, a son, in 1963.
Derek and Westwood’s marriage broke up after she met Malcolm McLaren. After relocating to Balham’s Thurleigh Court, Westwood and McLaren welcomed their son Joseph Corré in 1967. Up until 1971, Westwood continued to teach and sold clothes that McLaren designed. McLaren took on the role of manager for the punk band the Sex Pistols, and the two gained fame
Mother of Punk:
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Vivienne Westwood and her husband Malcolm McLaren started designing clothes without any professional training in the field. McLaren and Westwood established their shop in 1971. The name changed each year from Sex to Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die and others. The names kept changing every time they release a new Collection.
This initial stage featured erotic clothing, safety pin jewellery, black leather, and graphic tees with political messages.The general public found these garments to be shocking at the time, but with the harness and safety pin trends of 2021, it is clear that Vivienne Westwood was correct the rest of the time.
Collections and Clothing:
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Westwood’s contribution to the development of punk will remain in history. But she has established a rebel image that is genuinely her own in the more than 30 years since she split from her partner and collaborator Malcolm McLaren. Key items in our collections, from edgy printed T-shirts to sumptuously exquisite ballgowns, express her signature blend of provocation and reverence for tradition.
The King’s College academic outfits were designed by Westwood’s in 2008, Westwood’s creations were displayed in the Barcelona fashion event(The Brandery) in July 2011. Richard Branson and Westwood worked together to create the clothes for the Virgin Atlantic crew. Westwood and Branson used recycled polyester because they were both concerned about using sustainable materials in their designs to reduce their negative effects on the environment.
They tested some of the designs with pilots and cabin crew before releasing them entirely, and they made adjustments based on the results. In 2015, it was revealed by a number of media sources that Vivienne Westwood Ltd. paid an offshore business called Latimo $2 million a year for the right to use Westwood’s name on her own clothing line. Latimo was established in Luxembourg. Latimo was founded in 2002 and was owned by Westwood, who also served as the principal stakeholder in her businesses. Even though they were legal, such agreements went against Green Party policy, which is to severely restrict the use of tax havens like Luxembourg.
According to Westwood in March 2015, “I think it’s crucial that my business dealings reflect my personal ideals. I must pay tax in the UK on all of my income “. Later in 2015, she claimed to have changed her corporation tax arrangements in an effort to make them consistent with Green Party doctrine.
Vivienne Westwood Companies:
In August 2011, Westwood’s company Vivienne Westwood Ltd agreed to pay almost £350,000 in tax to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for significantly underestimating the value of her brand. The Vivienne Westwood Group and Manchester-based Hervia, which handled seven stores for the fashion brand, came to an agreement in March 2012 to discontinue their long-standing UK franchise partnership.
The conversion of some Hervia stores to Westwood in 2013 was acknowledged with improving pre-tax earnings for Vivienne Westwood Ltd. from £527,683 to £5,000,000, and group sales increased from £25.4,000,000 to £30.1,000,000. The business declared in March 2015 that it would launch a three-storey location in midtown Manhattan by the end of the year. In early 2016, a second 3,200 square foot store in a building that also houses the business’ headquarters and showrooms was planned to open in Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris as a follow-up.
Vivienne Westwood Ltd. ran 12 retail locations in the UK in 2015, one of which was an outlet store in Bicester Village. There were 63 Westwood stores around the world, including two in the US and nine each in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Despite an 8.4% increase in sales to £32 million, the company reported in June of that year a profit decline from £3.2 million to £2.9 million.
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On the front cover of Tatler in April 1989, Westwood represented Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister. Westwood was wearing a suit that Thatcher had ordered but had not yet delivered. The cover, which had the words “This woman was once a punk,” was listed among the top UK magazine covers by The Guardian.
I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me was the phrase on limited edition T-shirts and baby clothing that Westwood and the British human rights organisation Liberty released in September 2005. She claimed that she was in favour of the cause and supporting habeas corpus. “When I was in high school, Mr. Scott, my history teacher, started taking civics classes. The fundamental legal principle reflected in habeas corpus was the first thing he taught to us. He spoke with delight about democracy and civilization. The storming of the Bastille was motivated by the French monarchy’s disdain of arbitrary arrests. The only way we can take democracy for granted is if we uphold our freedom “she declared. The organisation received money from the sale of the £50 T-shirts.
In 2007, Westwood admitted on television that she had switched her longtime allegiance to the Labour Party to the Conservatives due to concerns about civil liberties and human rights. She has been a supporter of the Green Party since the beginning of 2015. She participated in the largest Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally in 10 years on Easter Sunday 2008 at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire.
Chelsea Manning was the subject of one of Westwood’s collections in June 2013, and at her fashion show, she and all of her models wore badges with a giant image of Manning and the phrase “Truth” beneath it. Westwood gave Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the 2017 general election their support in June. I’m pleased about the Labour Party manifesto since it emphasises the equitable distribution of income, the woman remarked. “Jeremy definitely wants to go green,” she continued, “and the place to start is by generating a fair distribution of wealth. From there, we can construct a green economy that will ensure our future.” Westwood joined other public figures in endorsing Corbyn in a letter published in November 2019 that called him “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emerging far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world” and recommended that he be elected to the UK general election in 2019.
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Julian Assange had the support of Westwood for a very long time, and Westwood advocated for his release. She presented “I am Julian Assange” t-shirts at London Fashion Week in 2012 in an effort to promote his freedom. After his detention in April 2019, she paid him multiple visits when he was receiving political refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and in Belmarsh Prison. She demonstrated against Assange’s potential extradition to the US in July 2020 outside London’s Old Bailey court by donning a yellow pantsuit and hanging from a large birdcage. She referred to herself as the canary in the mine and claimed that she was already “half-poisoned” due to government corruption of the legal system.
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Westwood received an OBE in 1992, which she accepted from Queen Elizabeth II in the palace. Westwood wore only sheer stockings and a reinforced bikini top underneath her skirt for the ceremony. A photographer afterwards took a picture of this in the Buckingham Palace courtyard.In 2008, Westwood created 20 new academic gowns and hoods for King’s students to wear at their graduation ceremonies after receiving a Fellowship from the institution in 2007. Westwood received an honorary doctorate of letters from Heriot-Watt University in 2008 for her contributions to the manufacturing and use of Scottish textiles.
In order to honour the British cultural people in his life who he most admires, artist Sir Peter Blake chose a number of British culture icons, including Westwood, to feature in a new edition of his most well-known piece of art, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.  Westwood was chosen as one of The New Elizabethans to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in 2012. Westwood was one of 60 individuals in the UK “whose acts during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a substantial impact on lives in these islands and given the age its character,” according to a panel of seven academics, journalists, and historians.
In 2016, a Tit’s t-shirt created by McLaren and offered for sale at Seditionaries between 1976 and 1980 was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The premiere of the Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist documentary took place in 2018. The next year, Frances Lincoln Publishing released Vivienne Westwood, one of the Little People, Big Dreams series, which was written by Isabel Sanches Vegara and illustrated by Laura Callaghan.
Two kids were born to Westwood. Her son Ben Westwood, who was born in 1963, is an erotica photographer. Her son with Malcolm McLaren, Joseph Corré, founded the lingerie line Agent Provocateur in 1967.In 1992, she got hitched to Andreas Kronthaler, a former fashion student.
Before Kronthaler persuaded her to move into a Queen Anne style house in Clapham that was built in 1703 and had belonged to Captain Cook’s mother, Westwood spent 30 years living in an ex-council flat in Nightingale Lane, Clapham. She was a vegetarian and an avid gardener.
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Westwood received a commission from the art platform CIRCA, established in 2020 by British-Irish artist Josef O’Connor, to deliver a brand-new video piece on the Piccadilly Lights screen in Piccadilly Circus, London, in honour of her 80th birthday. The punk icon sang a reworked version of “Without You” from My Fair Lady in the ten-minute movie she and her brother made to warn of social indifference to impending environmental catastrophes and to protest the arms trade and its connection to climate change: “I have a plan 2 save the World.
Since capitalism is a war economy and war is the worst polluter, we must stop war while also changing the economy to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth: NO MANS LAND. Let’s be clear: U + I cannot instantly end a conflict. But if we stop making weapons, we can also solve climate change and the financial crisis. This will eventually end conflict.  Her husband Andreas Kronthaler was cited as stating, “It was a great day because for once she let herself enjoy it,” in an interview with The Guardian.
At the age of 81, Westwood passed away in Clapham, London, on December 29, 2022.”Such a legend, a big inspiration, incredibly creative and always a committed campaigner for people and planet – my thoughts are with her family and friends – RIP,” said Caroline Lucas, a former co-leader of the Green Party.