Vivienne Westwood, born on April 8 1941 is a British fashion Designer and businesswoman, largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream. (Price) Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in the village of Tintwistle Derbyshire, daughter of Gordon Swire and Dora Swire. At age 17, Vivienne and her family moved to Harrow, London. She studied at the Harrow School of Art University of Westminster, taking fashion and silversmithing but she left after one term saying, “I didn’t know how a working class girl like me could possibly make a living in the art world.
After taking a job in a factory and studying at a teacher training college, she became a primary school teacher. During this period, she also created her own jewelry which she would sell at a stall on Portobello Road in London (Susannah) In 1961 at age 20, Vivienne Swire met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice in Harrow. They married in July 1962 and Vivienne made her own wedding dress for the ceremony. Vivienne and Derek’s marriage lasted three years with Vivienne continuing to teach while making jewelry.
At around this time she met Malcolm McLaren (Susannah) When she met Malcolm McLaren, it signified the end of Westwood’s marriage to Derek. Westwood and McLaren moved to a council flat in Clapham. Westwood continued to teach until 1971 when Malcolm decided to open a boutique at 430 King’s Road called “Let It Rock” (later known variously as “Sex”, “Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die”, and “Seditionaries” and now Worlds Ends, where Westwood sells her Vivienne Westwood label clothing. Westwood created clothes which McLaren conceived, drawing inspiration from bikers, fetishists and prostitutes.
During this period, McLaren became manager of the punk band Sex Pistols and subsequently the two garnered attention as the band wore Westwood and McLaren’s designs. Westwood was deeply interested in the punk fashion phenomenon of the 1970s, saying “I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way”. (Alejandra) The “punk style” included BDSM fashion, bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle or lavatory chains on clothing and spiked dog collars for jewelry, as well as outrageous make-up and hair. Essential design elements include the adoption of traditional elements of Scottish esign such as tartan fabric.
In the 1980s, John Fairchild named the young Westwood one of the six most influential designers of our times in his fashion bible, the “Women’s Wear Daily. ” Her first catwalk show was presented in 1981, featuring the collaboration of Westwood and McLaren. The theme that year was Pirates. Since then, she has won British Designer of the Year three times. (The Design Museum) She dubbed the period 1981 to 1985, new romantic and 1988 -1991 “The Pagan Years” during which “Vivienne’s heroes changed from punks and ragamuffins to ‘Tatler’ girls wearing clothes that parodied the upper class.
The period from 1993 to 1999 she called “Anglomania” and from 2000 to the present – “Exploration. Vivienne Westwood revolutionized fashion, and her impact can still be felt. Her clothes are full of historical references, particularly to the 17th and 18th century, which serve as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for her. In addition, with her own technique for draping and pattern cutting, Westwood creates clothes with a characteristic volume, continually amazing her public. As for her latest collection, the pieces continue to reveal her glam, rock and rebel spirit.
More “now” than ever, the designer was also chosen by Disneyland Paris and Unicef (along with 24 other designers) to relook the fairy tale princesses. The most fortunate among us who dream of a haute couture princess gown will be able to procure Snow White’s dress by Vivienne Westwood. Vivienne Westwood’s influence in her taste for the eccentric and the provocative can be found today at John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and even Viktor & Rolf. These stylists attended the school of she who once declared, “My secret? Always keep them guessing… “
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