Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood

Westwood in 2008.
Born Vivienne Isabel Swire
8 April 1941 (1941-04-08) (age 70)
Tintwistle, Derbyshire, England
Nationality British
Education University of Westminster, Middlesex University
Occupation Fashion designer/Businesswoman
Spouse Sam Westwood (1962–65) (divorced); 1 child
Andreas Kronthaler (since 1992)
Children Ben Westwood (born 1963)
Joseph Corré (born 1967)
Awards British Fashion Designer of the Year 1990, 1991 and 2006.
Labels Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood, DBE, RDI (born Vivienne Isabel Swire on 8 April 1941) is a British fashion designer and businesswoman, largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream.[1]


Life and career

Early life

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in the village of Tintwistle, Derbyshire[N 1] on 8 April 1941,[2] the daughter of Gordon Swire and Dora Swire (née Ball), who had married two years previously, two weeks after the outbreak of World War II.[3] At the time of Vivienne's birth, her father was employed as a storekeeper in an aircraft factory; he had previously worked as a greengrocer.[3]

Aged 17, Vivienne and her family moved to Harrow, London. She studied at the Harrow School of Art, taking fashion and silversmithing, but she left after one term saying, "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could possibly make a living in the art world".[4] After taking up a job in a factory and studying at a teacher-training college, she became a primary school teacher.[2] During this period, she also created her own jewellery, which she would sell at a stall on Portobello Road.[2]

In 1961, Vivienne Swire met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice, in Harrow.[5] They married on 21 July 1962 and Vivienne made her own wedding dress for the ceremony.[5] In 1963, she gave birth to a son, Benjamin Westwood.[5]

Malcolm McLaren

Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols wearing a Seditionaries t-shirt

When she met Malcolm McLaren, it signified the end of Westwood's marriage to Derek. Westwood and McLaren moved to a council flat in Clapham. Westwood continued to teach until 1971 when Malcolm decided to open a boutique at 430 King's Road called "Let It Rock" (later known variously as "Sex", "Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die", and "Seditionaries") and now Worlds Ends, where Westwood sells her Vivienne Westwood label clothing.

Westwood created clothes which McLaren conceived, drawing inspiration from bikers, fetishists and prostitutes.[6] During this period, McLaren became manager of the punk band Sex Pistols and subsequently the two garnered attention as the band wore Westwood and McLaren's designs. While living in their flat in Clapham, Westwood and McLaren had a child, another son, named Joseph.[citation needed]

Punk era

Westwood was deeply interested in the punk fashion phenomenon of the 1970s, saying "I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way".[5] The "punk style" included BDSM fashion, bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle or lavatory chains on clothing and spiked dog collars for jewellery, as well as outrageous make-up and hair. Essential design elements include the adoption of traditional elements of Scottish design such as tartan fabric. Amongst the more unusual elements of her style is the use of historical 17th and 18th century cloth cutting principles, and reinterpreting these in, for instance, radical cutting lines to men's trousers. Use of these traditional elements make the overall effect of her designs more shocking.

Vivienne Westwood company

Westwood has five exclusively-owned shops; three in London, one in Leeds, and one in Milan. Franchise stores are located in Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, three in Manchester and most recently, in FH Mall, Nottingham (20 March 2008), and in Blake Street, York (11 September 2008).[citation needed] She also has showrooms in Milan, Paris and Los Angeles.[citation needed]

Artistic collections

The pair of heels designed by Westwood in which Naomi Campbell famously stumbled while modelling at Westwood's fashion show in 1993[7]

Her first catwalk show was presented in 1981, featuring the collaboration of Westwood and McLaren. The theme that year was Pirates.[8] Subsequent Westwood's theme titles in the early years included Savage (1982), Buffalo Girls (Autumn/Winter 1982–83) and Clint Eastwood, (Autumn-Winter 1984–85) under the Worlds Ends Label she stop producing the line in 1985 to concertrate on her Vivienne Westwood Lines. Vivienne Westwood says (“Sometimes you need to transport your idea to an empty landscape and then populate it with fantastic looking people.”).[8]

She dubbed the period 1981 to 1985 New romantice and 1988 -1991 "The Pagan Years" during which "Vivienne’s heroes changed from punks and ragamuffins to ‘Tatler’ girls wearing clothes that parodied the upper class."[9] The period from 1993 to 1999 she called "Anglomania" and from 2000 to the present – "Exploration".[10][11]

Her Autumn/Winter 2005/06 Propaganda Collection drew inspiration from her archive, reinterpreting designs using Wolford's exclusive knitting technology. Westwood has worked in close collaboration with Wolford since 2003.[citation needed] In 2006, she collaborated with Nine West, whose shoes are not designed directly by Westwood, however the Nine West brand name shares its label with Westwood. Westwood's Gold Label and MAN hats are created by Prudence Millinery. In December 2003, she and the Wedgwood pottery company launched a series of tea sets featuring her designs.[citation needed]

The first major retrospective of her work was shown in 2004–5 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The exhibition, created from approximately 145 complete outfits grouped into the themes from the early 1970s to the present day, was drawn from her own personal archive and the V&A's extensive collection. The designs ranged from early punk garments to glamorous "historical" evening gowns.[citation needed]

In July 2011 her collections were presented at the catwalk of The Brandery fashion show in Barcelona.[12]

Artistic influence

Westwood has influenced the launch of the careers of other designers into the British fashion industry. She employed the services of Patrick Cox to design shoes for her Clint Eastwood collection in 1984. The result was a prototype for nine-inch-heeled shoes like the ones worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell when she fell during a Westwood fashion show in Paris in 1993.[citation needed]

Sex and the City

Demonstrating the impact of her long career, Westwood's designs were featured in the 2008 film adaptation of the award-winning television series Sex and the City. In the film version of the television series, Carrie Bradshaw becomes engaged to long term lover Mr. Big. Being a writer at Vogue, her editor invites her to model wedding dresses for an upcoming article called "The Last Single Girl". One of the dresses featured in the photo shoot is a design made by Westwood and it is subsequently sent to Carrie as a gift, with a handwritten note from Westwood herself. Although she has already picked an outfit for the wedding, Carrie immediately decides to wear the Westwood gown instead. Despite being invited to participate in the making of the movie, Westwood was unimpressed with the costuming by renowned stylist Patricia Field. She walked out of the film's London premiere after 10 minutes, publicly criticising the clothing featured as being frumpy and boring. The wedding dress has subsequently become widely recognised as one of the movie's most iconic features and has led Westwood to approach the producers about being involved in making a sequel.[13]

Political involvement

Westwood's clothing bearing political messages on display at an exhibition in Sheffield

Westwood is widely known as a political activist.

In April 1989 Westwood appeared on the cover of Tatler dressed as then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The suit which Westwood wore had been ordered for Thatcher but had not yet been delivered.[14] Westwood's appearance on Tatler reportedly infuriated Thatcher.[14] The cover, which bore the title "this woman was once a punk", has become memorable cover for the magazine and was included in The Guardian's list of the best ever UK magazine covers.[15] Additionally, the cover date, April 1989, on the magazine bears the words "April fool".[16]

Dame Vivienne stated on television in 2007 that she had transferred her long standing support for the Labour Party to the Conservative Party, over the issues of civil liberties and human rights.[17]

On Easter Sunday 2008, she campaigned in person at the biggest Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstration in ten years, at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire.[18]

In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with the British civil rights group Liberty and launched exclusive limited design T-shirts and baby wear bearing the slogan I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don't arrest me. Westwood said she was supporting the campaign and defending habeas corpus. "When I was a schoolgirl, my history teacher, Mr. Scott, began to take classes in civic affairs. The first thing he explained to us was the fundamental rule of law embodied in habeas corpus. He spoke with pride of civilisation and democracy. The hatred of arbitrary arrest by the lettres de cachet of the French monarchy caused the storming of the Bastille. We can only take democracy for granted if we insist on our liberty", she said.[19] The sale of the £50 T-shirts raised funds for the organisation.

Active Resistance Manifesto

In a 2007 interview she spoke out against what she perceive as the "drug of consumerism",[20] and she attended the première of The Age of Stupid, a film aiming to motivate the public to act against climate change.[21]

She later created a manifesto of Active Resistance to Propaganda,[22][clarification needed] which deals with the pursuit of art in relation to the human predicament and climate change.[23] In her manifesto, she "penetrates to the root of the human predicament and offers the underlying solution. We have the choice to become more cultivated and therefore more human – or by muddling along as usual we shall remain the destructive and self-destroying animal, the victim of our own cleverness."[24]

Against the claim that anti-consumerism and fashion contradict each other, she said in 2007 that "I don't feel comfortable defending my clothes. But if you've got the money to afford them, then buy something from me. Just don't buy too much."[23]

Vivienne Westwood's London

In January 2011, Westwood was featured in a Canadian-made television documentary called Vivienne Westwood's London in which she takes the viewer through her favourite parts of London, including the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Wallace Collection, Whitechapel (accompanied by Sarah Stockbridge), Hampton Court, the London Symphony Orchestra, Brixton Market and Electric Avenue, and the National Gallery. Her purpose, she said, was to share her love of high culture and to impress its importance on the current generation: "I love this city and its culture. I want to encourage people to love art and believe that culture can save the world. Culture is about people's outlook on the world and along with art, is the anchor that holds us together as a people and gives life greater meaning."[25]


In 1992, Westwood was awarded an OBE, which she collected from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.[26] At the ceremony, Westwood was knicker-less, which was later captured by a photographer in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace. Westwood later said "I wished to show off my outfit by twirling the skirt. It did not occur to me that, as the photographers were practically on their knees, the result would be more glamorous than I expected",[27] and added "I have heard that the picture amused the Queen".[27] Westwood advanced from OBE to DBE in the 2006 New Year's Honours List for services to fashion,[26] and has thrice earned the award for British Designer of the Year.

Personal life

Dame Vivienne Westwood is currently married to her former fashion student, Austrian-born Andreas Kronthaler. For 30 years Westwood lived in the council flat in Clapham until, in 2000, Kronthaler convinced Westwood to move into a Queen Anne style house built in 1703, which once belonged to the mother of Captain Cook.[28] Westwood does not watch television or read newspapers or magazines, however she is a keen gardener.[29]


  • Ben Westwood, son of Vivienne and Derek Westwood, is a photographer of erotica.
  • Joseph Corré, son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, is the founder of lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.[30]


  1. ^ Westwood was born in Tintwistle, but at the time of her birth in 1941 Tintwistle was within of the county of Cheshire. Since 1974, Tintwistle has fallen under the boundaries of the county of Derbyshire.


  1. ^ Bell-Price, Shannon (October 2004). "Vivienne Westwood (born 1941) and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style Source: Vivienne Westwood (born 1941) and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  2. ^ a b c Susannah Frankel (1999-10-20). "Meet the grande dame of Glossop". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  3. ^ a b Nick Barratt (2007-02-24). "Family detective". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  4. ^ "Vivienne Westwood – The Early Years". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Vivienne Westwood: Disgracefully yours, the Queen Mother of Fashion". The Independent (London). 2002-06-02. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  6. ^ Cathy Horyn (1999-02-14). "The Queen of Extreme (page 3)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  7. ^ "Red-faced Agyness Deyn does a Naomi Campbell whilst on the catwalk as the stars turn out for Haiti fundraiser". Daily Mail (UK). 2010-02-13. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  8. ^ a b The Early Years Vivienne Westwood web site
  9. ^ The Pagan Years Vivienne Westwood web site
  10. ^ Anglomania Vivienne Westwood web site
  11. ^ Exploration Vivienne Westwood web site
  12. ^ The Brandery, Catwalk, TV Fashion Runway Show
  13. ^ Barnett, Leisa (2009-01-07). "Sex And The Dame)". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  14. ^ a b "Biography: Dame Vivienne Westwood". BBC. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  15. ^ "Are these the best ever UK magazine covers?". The Guardian (London). 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  16. ^ "Tatler, April 1989". Magazine Week. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  17. ^ "New Conservative Vivienne Westwood has something to get off her chest". 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  18. ^ "Vivienne Westwood rallies at CND's Easter Monday demonstration in Berkshire". 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  19. ^ Browning, Anna (2005-09-28). "The power of T-shirt slogans". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  20. ^ Brockes, Emma (2007-05-11). "All hail the Queen". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  21. ^ "Age of Stupid premiere: the green carpet treatment". The Guardian (London). 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  22. ^ Accessible at
  23. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (2007-12-02). "I don't feel comfortable defending my clothes. But if you've got the money to afford them, then buy something from me. Just don't buy too much". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-09. 
  24. ^ Vivienne Westwood, Active Resistance Manifesto
  25. ^ Heather Toskan, QMI Agency, Vivienne Westwood's London, January 22, 2010.
  26. ^ a b "Vivienne Westwood collects royal honour wearing no knickers – again". Daily Mail. UK. 2006-06-09. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  27. ^ a b "Vivienne Westwood: You ask the questions". The Independent (London). 2001-02-21. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  28. ^ Cathy Horyn (2009-12-31). "The Queen V". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  29. ^ Piers Beeching (2009-08-06). "Me & my garden: Vivienne Westwood". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  30. ^ sheiglagh. "Vivienne Westwood’s son Ben Breaks into Men’s Fashion". Retrieved 2009-07-26. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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