We always knew Vivienne Westwood was a badass. Yes, we always knew, we always liked her, and we always secretly wanted to be her. We were doing a bit of research and found more irresistibly fascinating facts about this 69-year-old fashion rebel turned design world icon. For example, did you know that she married her former student, a handsome young 25-year-old Austrian man when she was 50? Yes 50, that’s twice his senior. And did we mention handsome?
A woman of many titles, the Queen of Punk, three times the British Designer of the Year, and in 2006 Dame by the Prince of Wales, Westwood broke out onto the fashion scene during the birth of punk in early seventies London. Westwood was a critical influence on the punk movement in England as her second husband Malcom McLaren was the Sex Pistols’ first manager. The Sex Pistols wore her edgy designs on stage and shopped in her and her husband’s legendary boutique SEX in London’s Chelsea district (which is to this day still owned by Westwood and now known as World’s End).
In Dame Westwood’s early years as a clothing designer, she took a great deal of inspiration from bikers, fetishists, and prostitutes, creating raw, very punk rock appropriate garments. She and McLaren worked together to cultivate a look that would have a lasting impact on the punk scene. Bondage gear, Scottish tartan fabric, and safety pins are just a few of the elements incorporated into Westwood’s designs that have been embedded into our culture as iconic punk styles.
Pirates was Westwood’s first runway show, as a collaboration with McLaren in 1981. It was at this time you started to see Vivienne’s signature style start to take form. Vivienne looked to the past for inspiration and incorporated 18th century draping and pattern making in the garments. Historical romanticism then became a prominent theme in all of her future collections.
After a few years of selling her collections in hers and McLaren’s London shop, Westwood got picked up by Armani to launch her own label. Shortly after, she and McLaren broke up. Then on her own, she allowed herself to experiment with new techniques and styles, digging deeper into historical costume for influence. Undergarments and structure become a focus of hers as well, as she pioneered the Underwear As Outerwear movement with corsets and crinolines.
Through the last four decades, Vivienne Westwood has continued to shock and inspire awe in the fashion world with her boundary pushing designs and bold personality. She is not afraid to take risks professionally and doesn’t think twice about speaking her mind. Some of her runway shows have had very clear, and at times, quite controversial political messages, including the debut of her Red Label collection in 2008, where the models held signs with slogans like “Justice for the Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.”
Vivienne was asked to be a part of the first Sex And The City movie– she designed Carrie’s wedding dress. At the premier, she left after only ten minutes, claiming “I thought Sex And The City was supposed to be about cutting-edge fashion and there was nothing remotely memorable or interesting about what I saw.” Ouch! We wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of that comment, however we find her brutal honesty rather refreshing.
Vivienne Westwood is operating four fashion lines under her command: Gold Label (semi-couture), Red Label (ready-to-wear), Westwood Man, and Anglomania (diffusion line). Over the course of her career, she has created an empire of VW branded products, consisting of collaborations with many companies in countless fields. In 2001, she worked with Wedgwood and designed a collection of tea sets. Most recently, she designed limited edition tablecloths for the eco-charity Cool Earth. Other collaborations include rugs and pillows for The Rug Company, wallpaper for Cole and Son, eco friendly shoes for Melissa Shoes, a shoe collection for Nine West, a denim collection for Lee Jeans, and a sofa collection for Molteni & C.
With all of those business partnerships to keep up, designing boundary pushing, trendsetting fashion collections multiple times a year, and keeping up that trademark tangerine hair color, we don’t know how she has the energy to get up and make herself a cup of tea in the morning. To do all of this at 69, we guess it’s true, staying active keeps you young. We just can’t get enough of this chick.
One more irresistibly fascinating fact about the Queen of Punk: When she was titled Dame in 1992 and was awarded her Order from the British Empire at Buckingham Palace, she spun around in her dress for a photographer and flashed him, and she was as they say in England, knickerless.
Katherine Tyznik.HighStreet.New York