Jürgen Teller/Vivienne Westwood
Dame Vivienne Westwood, 81, has died, according to a statement made by her label on Twitter.
It read, ‘Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London.
‘The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.’
It also provided a quotation from Dame Vivienne in an image, reading: ‘Tao spiritual system. There was never more need for the Tao today. 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.’ It added, ‘Vivienne, we love you.’
On Instagram, it added, ‘Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until her last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better. She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.’
Her husband and creative partner, Andreas Kronthaler, said, ‘I will continue with Vivienne in my heart. We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you darling.’
Born on April 8, 1941 to working-class parents in Tintwhistle, Derbyshire, Vivienne Isabel Swire was an avid reader with a strong self-belief. When the family moved to Harrow, Middlesex, in 1958, she enrolled in a jewellery and silversmith course at the Harrow Art School, but quit after one term. She later qualified as a primary school teacher, and married Derek Westwood in 1962. She made her own wedding dress. The following year, they had a son, Benjamin, now a photographer.
She met the visual artist Malcolm McLaren in a chance meeting through her brother. Her marriage to Westwood ended and she moved in with McLaren in a flat in Thurleigh Court, Balham, where their son Joseph Corré (who later founded Agent Provocateur) was born in 1967.
She created the clothes that McLaren designed. When McLaren became the manager of the band Sex Pistols, they wore the designs, which brought them public attention.
In 1974, she and McLaren opened the boutique Too Fast to Love, Too Young to Die, later renamed Sex, on the King’s Road in London, where members of the punk scene met. The movement was anti-materialistic, and against the pretence of mainstream culture. The clothing was intended to shock, and many of the items were intentionally ripped or slashed, while the boutique stocked bondage and fetish items but brought them into fashion. Westwood saw it as counter-cultural and a movement for positive change, and was disappointed others misinterpreted it.
Westwood took her and McLaren’s work into the fashion world with catwalk shows, with Pirate the first to be shown to press and buyers in 1981. While finding support among the public, the establishment wanted to laugh at her, as was the case on one BBC show where she threatened to walk off. However, she continued to turn out her collections and the public embraced it; she termed her 1981–5 period ‘New Romantic’ and kicked off the movement, which parodied the establishment.
By 1989, Women’s Wear Daily had named her one of the six best designers of the century, the only woman on the list.
In 1992, she married her former fashion student, Andreas Kronthaler, who collaborated with her on many collections, ultimately designing them.
Westwood continued to be an activist, using her fame to protest nuclear weapons, dedicated a collection to whistleblower Chelsea Manning, supported PETA, Aids research and Oxfam, donated to the Green Party, and regularly visited and supported Julian Assange.
In a statement provided to Lucire, the company added, ‘Vivienne always stood for justice and fairness and has been working on a plan to save the world. Shortly before she passed away, she said, “Julian Assange is a hero and has been treated atrociously by the UK government.
‘“Capitalism is a crime. It is the root cause of war, climate change and corruption.”’
It noted that the Vivienne Foundation, a non-profit that Dame Vivienne, her sons and granddaughter founded in late 2022, will launch in 2023 ‘to honour, protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design and activism.
‘The Foundation’s goal is to raise awareness and create tangible change working with NGOs. Built upon four pillars: Climate Change, Stop War, Defend Human Rights and Protest Capitalism. The Vivienne Foundation exists to create a better world and implement Vivienne’s plans.
‘“Stop Climate Change. This is a war for the very existence of the human race. And that of the planet. The most important weapon we have is public opinion. Become a freedom fighter”.’
In 1992, she was awarded the OBE and turned up to receive the honour without wearing underwear. In 2006, she was made a DBE in the New Year’s Honours’ List for services to fashion.