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    Posted: 30 Dec 2022 at 9:41am

Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer and Punk Icon, Dies at 81

Influential British designer is credited with birthing punk fashion

Vivienne Westwood, the British fashion designer credited with birthing punk fashion, has died. She was 81.

Ms. Westwood died Thursday surrounded by family in London, her company said. 

“I will continue with Vivienne in my heart. We have been working until the end and she had given me plenty of things to get on with,” Ms. Westwood’s husband, Andreas Kronthaler, said in a statement. “Thank you darling.”

Ms. Westwood, a former schoolteacher who became known for her punk-inspired take on fashion, enjoyed more than 50 years in the industry. 

Her fashion career kicked off in the late 1960s, after she met Malcolm McLaren, who would become her professional and romantic partner for the next decade or so. 

Together, Ms. Westwood and Mr. McLaren helped define the aesthetic of London’s burgeoning punk rock scene. 

The duo opened a store in London in 1971 that sold vintage clothing and T-shirts with antiestablishment messaging and sexually explicit imagery. The boutique, which had several name changes, including the plain but provocative SEX, eventually pivoted to biker-style clothes, with zippers, leather and other BDSM-inspired details. The clothes attracted London’s underground, and Ms. Westwood outfitted bands like the Sex Pistols, which Mr. McLaren managed, and Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. 

“The hippie movement politicized my generation,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2011. “When it ended, we all started looking back at our own history, looking, in my case, for motives of rebellion. So Malcolm McLaren and I invented this urban guerilla look.”

Ms. Westwood’s first runway collection in 1981, titled “Pirates,” featured frill shirts and baggy trousers. It was a defining moment for the designer, establishing her as an eccentric yet distinctive voice in fashion. 

Following her split from Mr. McLaren in the early ’80s, Ms. Westwood ventured deeper into the high-fashion world, with extravagant—and often influential—runway shows. Her designs evolved to new eclectic heights, including hoop “mini-crini” skirts, tweed suits and corset tops. By the end of the decade, Ms. Westwood was regarded as one the industry’s most influential designers, mentioned alongside names like Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. She won Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 1990 and 1991.

Over time, the independently-owned business became more commercial, with the development of lower-priced lines like Anglomania and licensing agreements. 

By the late 1990s, the once scrappy and often rebellious company was clocking $45 million in annual sales. From one store on London’s King’s Road, Vivienne Westwood grew into a sprawling global fashion label, with around 30% of its sales coming from the Japanese market.

Mr. Kronthaler, Ms. Westwood’s husband, has taken over design duties at the company in recent years. But creations from Ms. Westwood’s punk-era heyday, such as skintight shirts and printed trousers, are highly coveted on the resale market, particularly among 20-somethings who weren’t even born when she rose to prominence. 

Ms. Westwood was made a dame in 2006 for her services to fashion. Her red hair was adorned with metal horns for the occasion.

The influential designer was also a notable activist, known for speaking her mind and using her namesake label to amplify her views. Environmental, political and humanitarian issues popped up in interviews, on the notes at her fashion shows, and in slogans splashed across T-shirts.

“Dame Vivienne Westwood spent decades as a designer daring the rest of the fashion world to start a revolution for animals and the planet,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said Thursday. 

Ms. Westwood is survived by Mr. Kronthaler and two sons: Benjamin Westwood, from her first marriage to Derek Westwood, and Joseph Corré, her son with Mr. McLaren, who runs the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.

Ms. Westwood, along with her sons and granddaughter, recently created the Vivienne Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will launch next year and was created to “protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design, and activism.” The organization will focus on climate change, war and human rights, according to a statement.  

from w frwww.wsj.com

Edited by snobb - 30 Dec 2022 at 9:46am
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