Vivienne Westwood

BATD ON Dec 29, 2008 AT 12:53 pm

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

The Grand Dame of Fashion never strays far from her punk roots. Bold tartans, safety pins and bondage, juxtaposed with tightly boned corsets, form the basis of the majority of her shows. Born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Derbyshire in 1941, Westwood remains the epitome of fashion rebellion, right down to the fact that she has never completed any formal design training.

Originally, Westwood trained as a primary school teacher and married Derek Westwood, whose name she has kept despite their divorce after just three years of marriage. In 1965, she met Malcolm McLaren, with whom she has her son Joseph, founder of Agent Provocateur. McLaren sparked Westwood’s creativity and in 1971 she began designing her own clothing, usually customising old vintage pieces and adding embellishments such as safety pins and badges. This resulted in the opening of her first shop, Let It Rock on London’s King’s Road. By 1974 the shop was renamed SEX.

Amongst the controversy the pair caused with their shocking punk designs, a growing cult of loyal followers began to flock to their store religiously, parading the streets of London in Westwood’s infamous styles. By 1976 Westwood and McLaren were dressing the Sex Pistols, making a name for themselves as forerunners of the Punk scene. Street style bibles such as The Face and iD were heralding Westwood’s designs, yet mainstream press were reluctant to give her coverage due to her notoriety.

Westwoods Kings Road Shop Sex

Westwoods Kings Road Shop Sex

1981 saw Westwood’s King’s Road shop renamed World’s End, as well as her first catwalk show at London Fashion Week, entitled Pirate. Indeed, this year Westwood re-released the famous pirate boots from the original collection. With its emphasis on billowing sleeves and thigh high boots, the collection was adopted by artists such as Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet, who were known as The New Romantics. By 1983 Westwood had broken ties with McLaren and was now mainly based in Italy. Here she struck a deal with Armani, who financed the marketing of her label.

Whilst the 80’s saw the rise of the power suit and fashion designers empowering women with over sized shoulder pads, Westwood was focused on playing up the hips.  Indeed, greatly influenced by the tightly corseted waists and padded hips of French Renaissance fashions, Westwood’s corsets have come to symbolise her signature look. She is also famous for producing the world’s most outrageous platform shoes; made infamous when Naomi Campbell stumbled off them at Westwood’s Anglomania Autumn/Winter 1993 show.

Westwoods Spring Summer 2009 Collection

Westwoods Spring Summer 2009 Collection

Thrice winner of the British Fashion Awards, Westwood received an OBE for her contribution to fashion in 1992, where she proudly announced she was collecting the award without a stich of underwear on. Westwood’s achievements were recognised formally when she was made a Dame in 2006. On the one hand rather ironic given her anti-establishment Punk roots, but on the other quite fitting given her Union Jack brandishing quintessential Englishness.

Today Westwood’s designs remain of cutting edge brilliance and as politically charged as ever. For example, in 2005 her printed t-shirts bore the words “I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me”. Her collections are rooted in causes that matter to her and still lead the way for street style. 2008 saw the release of her book, Opus, an arts manifesto, priced at a staggering £1400 per copy. This year Westwood, set fashion hearts a’ fluttering when she returned to London Fashion week for the first time in nine years with her Red Label

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