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Plumager® Designer Spotlight: Vivienne Westwood

Designer Spotlight: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood  is one of the biggest names in fashion across the United Kingdom and simultaneously well-known across the world.  She has created signature and iconic collections since she began her career into fashion, a career which she focused on celebrating difference styles of fashion since 1971. 

Westwood was born in April 1941, in Cheshire England, at a time when the world war brought hardship and struggles. She grew up working class and felt this when she dropped out of her first university course at the University of Westminster. She had started out studying jewellery and silversmith but quickly came to a mindset of ‘’how can working class people like me make it in the art world.’’ She gave up on her course and followed a pathway into teaching at a primary school level, a path in which she would ultimately not stick to. She never gave up on her dreams and continued to sell jewellery on a stall at Portobello road.  

Being heavily influence by the punk era, Vivienne met Malcolm McLaren, who she inevitably left her first husband to be with. Malcolm managed bands such as the Sex Pistols and others which fed into Westwood’s attachment and influential style of the punk era. Malcolm also designed clothing which Vivienne became involved in as she created them based on his designs. She left the plan to be a primary teacher in 1971, and opened her shop which was co-managed by Malcolm. The shop was controversially named “SEX” which became the meeting place for the early members of the punk scene. The aims of their store and designs; to provoke thought and reaction. This was the beginning of Vivienne Westwood becoming one of the greats in fashion. 

Vivienne Westwood built a career out of being different. She created a safe space and a form of expression in a line punk aesthetics to mainstream wardrobes in order to balance the perspectives between the two lifestyles. 

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The first collection shown to the public was named ‘Pirates’, shown under the label name “Worlds End”. In 1981 it became the largest milestone to paving her career from shop owner to household name. It was focused on the neo-romantic movement which shifted the fashion into a full new look. It took away from dainty and delicate designs and added a harsh tone to the designs. She aspired to make you feel strong and grand in her clothing, which she has achieved. Westwood’s and McLarens partnership showed many collections between 1981 and 1984 until it was dissolved. The final collection was named ‘Clint Eastwood’ which showed just after they dissolved their partnership.  

She continued on her own and grew substantially. The split from Malcolm never created a huge difference in the overall designs created by Westwood as they both were influenced by the same process and cultures which was why the designs they created together sparked a rare form of magic. Luckily Vivienne Westwood was able to keep the spark ignited, designing on her own and continue to produce collection after collection in her own label, under the name Vivienne Westwood.

To show her significant growth Vivienne collected a wide range of awards to her name. She collected many awards and doctorates from universities including, King's College London,  which awarded her a fellowship in 2007. In 2008 Heriot-Watt University awarded her an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for her contributions to Scottish textiles and fashion. The most iconic selection of awards came to her throughout her career in the form of, an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) which was provided to her by Queen Elizabeth II. The ceremony was held at Buckingham palace and Westwood made quite a show wearing dress and a jacket which later blew up in front of paparazzi. She later earned a DBE (Dame of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her service in fashion. Finally, she won British designers of the year twice, a major career moment to anybody to win once, let alone twice. 

Overall, Vivienne Westwood has continuously pushed the bar in fashion in honour of always remaining true to herself and projecting that into her collections and followers. She has become a monumental name in fashion whose influence will be studied for futures to come.

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2 comments

  • Great summary of an amazing life. She was such an inspiration!

    Lucia T.
  • It was so sad to hear of her passing. She was so incredibly talented and will be missed so much in the fashion world!

    Alex Mena

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