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styleThe Croft2023

Vivienne Westwood: A Fashion Icon

After the recent passing of renowned punk fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, Amy Marshall looks back on her career and legacy.

By Amy Marshall, Style Digital Editor

The Croft Magazine // After the recent passing of renowned punk fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, Amy Marshall looks back on her career and legacy.

Controversial, shocking, and revolutionary, Vivienne Westwood has always proved herself as a force to be reckoned with. The designer is understood as an early pioneer of the British punk aesthetic and has left behind an impressive 50-year fashion legacy. Unapologetically outspoken, Westwood embodied anarchy and rebellion in both attitude and fashion.

Her career began in the early 1970s after meeting Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols. With McLaren, Westwood opened her first boutique Let it Rock, later renamed Worlds End, which catered to the punk aesthetic. There she was able to design clothes inspired by uprising and rebellion; sex and rock and roll. Vivienne went on to dress the Sex Pistols and used her designs to challenge the mainstream conservatism in 1970s Britain. This era can be best defined by Westwood’s infamous ‘God Save the Queen’ t-shirt, popularised by the Sex Pistols. The distressed, bold graphic tee went on to define her rebellious style.

After the commercialisation of the Sex Pistols in the 1970s, they later disbanded and the mainstream focus on punk rock began to fizzle out. Following suit, the 80s and 90s saw Westwood turn to high fashion. Debuting her first catwalk show in 1981, her significance as a designer was solidified.

In high fashion, Westwood primarily took inspiration from historical clothing, with her earlier collections synonymous with tartan, corsets, and intense silhouettes. A personal favourite of mine, her Autumn-Winter 1993/94 collection Anglomania embodied Westwood’s signature 90s style, with models clad in feather boas, fur coats, tailored suits, and stockings. This collection is perhaps best remembered for Naomi Campbell’s infamous runway fall, however, with the model falling in Westwood’s ‘Super Elevated Gillies’ platform heels.

As her career flourished, Vivienne proved she was always prepared to make a statement. When receiving an OBE from the Queen in 1992, Westwood revealed to photographers that underneath her skirt suit, she wasn’t wearing underwear. Nevertheless, in 2006, she was made a Dame. Always vocal on her beliefs, Westwood asserted herself as a climate activist in the 2000s, well before it became a mainstream topic of interest. Westwood often demonstrated her activism, and in 2015, controversially drove a tank to David Cameron’s, the then Prime Minister’s, house in a protest against fracking. Aside from protesting, Westwood regularly used her collections to advocate for environmentalism, sustainability, and anti-capitalism. In 2013, the brand launched a Greenpeace ‘Save the Arctic’ campaign and in 2019, Vivienne Westwood held their last in person show at London Fashion Week, having since gone digital in an effort to be more environmentally conscious.

In recent years, Vivienne’s designs have continued to contribute to and influence the fashion world, all whilst remaining sustainable in true Westwood style. The brand’s most recent collection, Born to Rewild Spring 2023, takes a refreshing approach to spring wear in its clashing patterns of pinstripes, floral and tartan. Plaid yields comparisons with her 1993 Anglomania collection, and despite its modern style, the new season feels nostalgic.

Vivienne Westwood’s longstanding and impactful life and career will be celebrated for decades to come. A household name, her legacy will continue to influence both the fashion world, and activists campaigning for a more sustainable future.

Featured image: By Mattia Passeri

'Buy less, choose well, make it last' - Vivienne Westwood