Fashion Designer and Punk Pioneer Vivienne Westwood Has Died at 81
Vivienne Westwood died at age 81 on Dec. 29. The British fashion designer was known for her subversive approach and punk aesthetic, and she continued to create until her death. “She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future,” read a statement shared to her eponymous brand’s Instagram. A cause of death was not shared, but Westwood is said to have passed “peacefully and surrounded by her family” in London.
The statement also highlighted Westwood’s belief in Taoism, and shared this fitting quote from the designer: “Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life; it gives you such a sense of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you can live and therefore ought to be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.”
Westwood was born in the English village of Tintwistle in 1941. Her fashion studies began when she studied jewelry and silversmithing at the University of Westminster. She would later make her own wedding dress for her first marriage in 1962. In the early 1970s, however, Westwood was at the frontier of the burgeoning punk movement, and she ran a boutique simply named Sex with her partner at the time, Malcolm McLaren, who would later manage the Sex Pistols.
Westwood made her runway debut in 1981 with her “pirate” collection, done in collaboration with McLaren. Throughout her decades designing, Westwood became known for often incorporating corset silhouettes, tartan fabrics, and fetish flourishes. She is also famous for her fall 1993 collection, complete with nine-inch platform heels. (Naomi Campbell notably fell while walking in that show.)
Despite her disruptive nature, Westwood became a fixture in both fashion and, ironically, British society. In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Westwood to the Order of the British Empire, making her a dame. Westwood wore sheer tights and flashed photographers when she collected her OBE at Buckingham Palace.
Westwood is survived by her husband, designer Andreas Kronthaler, and two children, photographer Ben Westwood and Agent Provocateur cofounder Joseph Corré.