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LONDON — Vivienne Westwood, a persuasive design dissident who assumed a vital part in the troublemaker development, kicked the bucket Thursday at 81.
Westwood’s eponymous design house reported her demise via web-based entertainment stages, saying she kicked the bucket calmly. A reason was not uncovered.
“Vivienne kept on doing the things she adored, as late as possible, planning, dealing with her specialty, thinking of her book, and impacting the world to improve things,” the assertion said.
Westwood’s design profession started during the 1970s when her extreme way to deal with metropolitan road style surprised the world. However, she proceeded to partake in a long vocation featured by a line of victorious runway shows and gallery presentations.
The name Westwood became synonymous with style and attitude even as she shifted focus from year to year, her range vast and her work never predictable.
As her stature grew, she seemed to transcend fashion. The young woman who had scorned the British establishment eventually became one of its leading lights, even as she kept her hair dyed that trademark bright shade of orange.
Andrew Bolton, curator of The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, said Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren — her onetime partners:
“gave the punk movement a look, a style, and it was so radical it broke from anything in the past.”
“The ripped shirts, the safety pins, the provocative slogans,” Bolton said. “She introduced postmodernism. It was so influential from the mid-70s. The punk movement has never dissipated — it’s become part of our fashion vocabulary. It’s mainstream now.”
Westwood’s long vocation was brimming with logical inconsistencies: She was a deep rooted rebel regarded a few times by Sovereign Elizabeth II. She dressed like a teen even in her 60s and turned into a frank backer of battling environmental change, cautioning of planetary destruction.
In her punk days, Westwood’s clothes were often intentionally shocking: T-shirts decorated with drawings of naked boys and “bondage pants” with sadomasochistic overtones were standard fare in her popular London shops. But Westwood was able to transition from punk to haute couture without missing a beat, keeping her career going without stooping to self-caricature.
“She was always trying to reinvent fashion. Her work is provocative, it’s transgressive. It’s very much rooted in the English tradition of pastiche and irony and satire. She is very proud of her Englishness, and still she sends it up,” Bolton said.
One of those contentious designs featured a swastika, an inverted image of Jesus Christ on the cross and the word “Destroy.” In an autobiography written with Ian Kelly, she said it was meant as part of a statement against politicians torturing people, citing Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. When asked if she regretted the swastika in a 2009 interview with Time magazine, Westwood said no.
“I don’t, because we were just saying to the older generation, ‘We don’t accept your values or your taboos, and you’re all fascists,'” she responded.
She approached her work with gusto in her early years, but later seemed to tire of the clamor and buzz. After decades of designing, she sometimes spoke wistfully of moving beyond fashion so she could concentrate on environmental matters and educational projects.
“Fashion can be so boring,” she told The Associated Press after unveiling one of her new collections at a 2010 show. “I’m trying to find something else to do.”
Her runway shows were always the most chic events, drawing stars from the glittery world of film, music, and television who wanted to bask in Westwood’s reflected glory. But still she spoke out against consumerism and conspicuous consumption, even urging people not to buy her expensive, beautifully made clothes.
“I just tell people, stop buying clothes,” she said. “Why not protect this gift of life while we have it? I don’t take the attitude that destruction is inevitable. Some of us would like to stop that and help people survive.”
Westwood’s activism extended to supporting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, posing in a giant birdcage in 2020 to try to halt his extradition to the U.S. She even designed the dress Stella Moris wore when she married Assange this past March at a London prison.
Westwood was self-educated, with no conventional style preparing. She told Marie Claire magazine that she figured out how to make her own garments as a teen by following examples. At the point when she needed to sell 1950s-style garments at her most memorable shop, she tracked down old garments in business sectors and dismantled them to grasp the cut and development.
Westwood was brought into the world in the Derbyshire town of Glossop on April 8, 1941. Her family moved to London in 1957 and she went to craftsmanship school for one term.
She met McLaren during the 1960s while filling in as an elementary teacher subsequent to isolating from her most memorable spouse, Derek Westwood. She and McLaren opened a little shop in Chelsea in 1971, the last part of the “Swinging London” time introduced by the Beatles and the Drifters.
The shop changed its name and center a few times, working as “SEX” — Westwood and McLaren were fined in 1975 for an “foul show” there — and “World’s End” and “Seditionaries.”
Among the laborers at their shop was Sex Guns bassist Glen Matlock, who referred to Westwood as “an oddball, driven, resolute, capable woman” in a proclamation to The Related Press.
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He said it was an honor “to have hobnobbed with her during the ’70s at what was the introduction of troublemaker and the overall waves it made that actually proceed to repeat and resonate today for the repelled, cooler and got a clue all over the planet.”
“Vivienne is gone and the world is as of now a less intriguing spot,” tweeted Chrissie Hynde, the frontwoman of the Fakers and another previous representative.
Westwood moved into a fresh type of designing with her “Pirates” collection, exhibited in her first catwalk show in 1981. That breakthrough is credited with taking Westwood in a more traditional direction, showing her interest in incorporating historical British designs into contemporary clothes.
It was also an important step in an ongoing rapprochement between Westwood and the fashion world. The rebel eventually became one of its most celebrated stars, known for reinterpreting opulent dresses from the past and often finding inspiration in 18th century paintings.
But she still found ways to shock: Her Statue of Liberty corset in 1987 is remembered as the start of “underwear as outerwear” trend.
She eventually branched out into a range of business activities, including an alliance with Italian designer Giorgio Armani, and developed her ready-to-wear Red Label line, her more exclusive Gold Label line, a menswear collection and fragrances called Boudoir and Libertine. Westwood shops opened in New York, Hong Kong, Milan and several other major cities.
She was named designer of the year by the British Fashion Council in 1990 and 1991.
Her uneasy relationship with the British establishment is perhaps best exemplified by her 1992 trip to Buckingham Palace to receive an Order of the British Empire medal: She wore no underwear, and posed for photographers in a way that made that abundantly clear.
Apparently the queen was not offended: Westwood was invited back to receive the even more auspicious designation of Dame Commander of the British Empire — the female equivalent of a knighthood — in 2006.
Westwood is survived by her second husband, the Austrian-born designer Andreas Kronthaler who had a fashion line under her brand, and two sons.
The first, fashion photographer Ben Westwood, was her son with Derek Westwood. The second, Joe Corre — her son with McLaren — co-founded the upscale Agent Provocateur lingerie line and once burned what he said was a collection of punk memorabilia worth millions: “Punk was never, never meant to be nostalgic,” he said.
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