Remembering Vivienne Westwood, Legendary Fashion Designer, And Activist

Remembering Vivienne Westwood, Legendary Fashion Designer, And Activist

By Haven Hathaway

Vivienne Westwood, the 81-year-old British fashion designer and activist, passed away at her home surrounded by family in South London on December 29, 2022. The fashion world joined together to mourn the loss and pay tribute to one of the influential designers who used her fashion to explore self-expression and identity.

Westwood's designs were the haute couture of madness, as she allowed punk, politics, and high fashion to live in harmony. On top of innovative talent, Westwood was an environmental activist committed to fighting the climate crisis.

The start of her fashion career dates back to 1971 when Westwood and Malcolm McLaren opened a boutique on King’s Road in London called Let It Rock, which was preoccupied with 1950s fashion and culture. The boutique became the spot in London to shop for teddy boy trousers, mohair sweaters, and drape coats. However, right around the start of the boutique, Westwood and McLaren began to style the 1970s band Sex Pistols.

This was the start of the boutique rebrand leading to name changes of Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die in 1972, Sex in 1974, Seditionaries in 1976, and finally, World’s End in 1979, all of which took on the punk rock aesthetic inspired by the vibrant subculture filling the streets and clubs in London.

Her design work bridged fashion and politics; it was through her seasonal collections and designs that she could spark political controversy and make her activism statements. Her career continued to thrive as she found a way to provide the fashion world with top-tier looks that adapted to the current society and generations.

The graphic and muslin T-shirts with designs such as the Queen with a safety pin through her lips marked the 70s, and the 80s showcased the Pirate Collection. Kate Moss was seen taking the runway in 1994 wearing a micromini, famously known as the “mini-crini,” and in 1995, Westwood launched the Vive la Cocotte collection. Her designs have been seen on elite celebrities red carpet looks in the 2000s, and it’s no doubt the Westwood corset has had a massive resurgence with the Gen-Z generation.

Manolo Blahnik told Vogue that Westwood “was a radical visionary with purpose and her lifelong contribution to the British fashion industry was like no other. She challenged convention and created some of the most iconic designs of the twentieth century.”

Her brand established early on that Westwood’s runway shows and collections were “a platform to campaign for a better world.”

The Vivienne Westwood website highlights that “over the last 20 years, Vivienne has supported hundreds of causes, NGOs, grassroot charities and campaigns including Amnesty International, War Child and Liberty, as well as launching her own campaigning movement Climate Revolution. She is also an ambassador for Greenpeace. In 2013 Vivienne designed their official ‘Save the Arctic’ logo and in 2015 she launched a global campaign to stop drilling and industrial fishing in the area.”

The Climate Revolution she launched in 2012 was a platform where she designed a set of playing cards that “depict a culture-led economic strategy to save the world.” The revolution combines campaigns, philosophies, speeches, activist actions, and her design work.

One of the most critical remarks Westwood made regarding fashion sustainability was, “Buy less, choose well, make it last. It’s all about quality, not quantity.” Westwood was determined to slow down fashion production and move back to the roots of producing high-quality garments that stand the test of trend cycles and time.

A statement released by her foundation said she “continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better.”

As a powerhouse of activism, her legacy will continue to live on into this new year and for many generations to come.

-As always, elevate your wardrobe with respected fashion and embrace the shift in style