The most eccentric and influential of Britain’s fashion designers who puts out on the runway the most amazing and spectacular clothes.
Her Logo is a royal ORB with a cross on top, bejewelled and impressive as befits the Queen of British fashion.
In 1941, Vivienne Swire was born in Derbyshire, England. Her father was a shoemaker and her mother a cotton weaver. When she was 16, her family moved to London and Vivienne attended the Harrow School of Art. After spending just one term there, she left to become a primary school teacher. She met her first husband Derek Westwood in 1962, they have a son Ben. In 1965, she met flamboyant, Malcolm McLaren who became her business partner.
In 1971. together with McLaren, she started up a shop called “Let it Rock” on London’s trendy Kings Road. At a time when the hippy movement was in full swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll was not even played on the radio, they sold Fifies Rock ‘n’ Roll records and memorabilia as well as stock of Fifties inspired designs. In 1974 the couple opened another boutique called “Sex” selling pornographically printed T-shirts and garments with sexual slogans printed on them.
In 1976 Punk style is born with the band the Sex Pistols who play their first gig wearing clothes from the shop at 430 Kings Road which has by now been renamed Seditonaries. The clothes represented the culmination of the ideas that had pervaded Vivienne Westwood’s work up to that time. Zips, rips, chains, bondage, porn and slogans all featured to give a look that would have a revolutionary impact on high fashion still felt to this day.
In 1981 The ‘Pirate’ collection was Vivienne Westwood’s first runway show presented at Olympia in London in March 1981. She is no longer solely interested in youth and street culture but also in tradition and technique.
She begins her technical research into historical dress with this collection, adopting and reinterpreting original cutting principles into her patterns and making them modern.
The shop at 430 King’s Road is once again redecorated and renamed World’s End, which it remains to this day. The collection includes asymmetric tee-shirts, petti-drawers, pirate shirts and breeches in rich brocades and ikat fabric.
In 1983 her collaboration with Malcolm Mclaren ends.
In 1987, Ten years on from 1977 and punk rock, Vivienne Westwood returns to the London catwalks after an absence of five years to show her ‘Harris Tweed’ collection. This collection is inspired by the look of the Queen, Elizabeth II, in her teenage years. She had already been the object of Westwood’s attention in 1977 when she adorned tee-shirts sporting a safety pin through her nose.
In 1989 John Fairchild, President of Fairchild Publications and Editor of the fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily, rates Vivienne Westwood in his book ‘Chic Savages’ one of the six best designers in the world, the only woman amongst them.
In 1993 Vivienne Westwood designs her own tartan for her ‘Anglomania’ collection. It is called MacAndreas after her husband, Andreas Kronthaler.
Naomi Campbell famously fell on the catwalk modelling the collection.
In 1999 Westwood’s first US flagship store opens in the SoHo district of New York.
Her first major retrospective of her work was shown in 2004-2004 at the Victoria and Albert Museum London, and the National Gallery of Australia. The exhibition is made up of around 145 complete outfits, grouped into the themes which have dominated her work from the early 1970s to the present day and were drawn from her own personal archive and the V&A’s extensive collection. They range from early Punk garments to glamorous ‘historical’ evening gowns. The retrospective is touring the world and is set to continue until 2008.
In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with the British Civial Rights group Liberty and launched exclusive limited design T-shirts and baby wear bearing the slogan I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me
Westwood accepted a DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire) in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List “for services to fashion”, and has thrice earned the award for British Designer of the Year.
Gold Label – her demi couture line of ready-to-wear and made to measure pieces
Red Label – her sassy tailoring, knits and shirts
Man, her menswear line.
Together they have a turnover of 20 million pounds per year. She supplies 550 stores in 30 countries which is all solely owned by Vivienne herself. Her managing director is carlo D’Amario.
Her son Joe Corre operates her World’s End Shop, and has turned it into a lucrative label. He assists her with all the chores she has to manage to keep her empire operating. He also owns the lingerie label Agent Provocateur.
Vivienne Westwood is fashion’s chief architect of revolt. She was once queen of punk and is no stranger to the forms of sabotage that can pave the way for the next upheaval in style or taste.
Her clothes are revolutionary and controversial. Her designs include intentionally twisted seams, intentionally badly cut clothes, designs intended to shock, deliberate contradictions of colour. She ignores conventional fashion directions and goes her own way.
She is queen of the original: bustiers, mens kilts, cone-shaped bras as day wear; classical paintings on underwear; the mini crinoline, fake fur trains, woolly royal crowns and so on.