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How Vivienne Westwood Revolutionized the Fashion Industry


September 11, 2023

Vivienne Westwood, a globally known fashion designer, could only be described as a strong female presence in the fashion industry who irrevocably became an inspiration for many fashion designers and other occupations related to the fashion department. She is commonly known for introducing new fashion styles, such as punk, to the world for the first time. She died last year in December in Clapham, London, at age 81.

So, who is Vivienne Westwood?

Vivienne was born on April 8th, 1941 in Tintwistle, Cheshire, England. Later in her life, her family moved to Greater London. There she tried to attend a class related to jewelry but her days in college ended after one term with her saying: "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could make a living in the art world".

After that, she was studying to become a teacher in the primary education field. Despite her full-time teaching job, she handcrafted her jewellery designs, which she sold in a street in West London (Portobello Road). She later married Derek Westwood and gave birth to their son, but as soon as she met Malcolm McLaren, her marriage came to an end. They started creating and producing clothes inspired and worn by a punk group of musicians called the Sex Pistols. Vivienne's designs were illustrations of the political and social movements of the 70s as well as the economy at that time. Now, although she passed in 2022, her collections are known throughout the globe, especially her jewellery line, as well as her corsetry.

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The Birth Of A New Era

Leather jackets, bondage trousers, and safety pins on clothing. These are some examples of Vivienne's work that are considered a badge of punk fashion. These kinds of designs were inspired by a group of musicians named Sex Pistols.

Sex Pistols embodied 70s punk and were a living example of what punk fashion would be. Vivienne and her partner Malcome McLaren established the shop SEX, which was located on King's Road in London and inspired controversy and other punk values. Vivienne's designs illustrated punk's intensity and, combined with the bold make-up looks, people who wore them achieved the ultimate alternative fashion look. As her designs were inspired by the Sex Pistols, she became their official stylist.

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Although many decades have passed since punk was born, it is still present in today's fashion. As the fashion industry has evolved with the passage of the years, punk has not maintained its alternative identity and is now a more common way of dressing. It is well-recognized that Westwood has majorly contributed to punk fashion and is widely considered one of the birthgivers, if not the sole birthgiver of this fashion style.

This is attributed to the fact that Vivienne engraved her rebellious lifestyle in her clothing. Her clothes embodied an anti-establishment way of living that was inspired by both the need young people felt to make noise and her personal life experiences. By genuinely transforming punk music into a clothing line, she made a significant impact on the history of the fashion industry. Her separation from McLaren denoted an ending to Vivienne's punk era.

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Vivienne's Corsetry,

from a Victorian-age undergarment to an Empowering Daywear

Corsets. A prestigious undergarment is worn by ladies of the 1800s. Vivienne Westwood changed the tendentious point of view that corsets are not meant to be seen.

Transforming corsets from undergarments to seductive daywear originated from her anti-establishment mindset. Vivienne's vision when it came to corsets was to empower women's self-esteem by making them feel good about themselves when wearing her designs. All her corsets were formed to enhance women's sexual energy and, as a result, they obtained the male gaze. Even her clothing line, Harris Tweed, a line inspired by the past with elements of the present, is perceived as unconventional (as well as her corsets), although its main inspiration was clothes from the 18th century. Vivienne's corsets made their first appearance in her store SEX as fetish wear during her punk era. Her most archetypal collection of corsets is The Portrait Collection, which combines a provocative essence with art originating from the 1800s.

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More Than A Fashion Designer

Vivienne's designs are not just designs. Throughout her career, she didn't hesitate to express her opinions when she thought that her voice needed to be heard. Through her designs and catwalks, she aimed to raise awareness of matters such as the climate crisis and its impact on today's world.

Vivienne's designs and catwalks draw attention to such problems as the word 'activism' is for sure something that she promotes. Furthermore, she shows her support by donating to charities related to environmental problems as well. She and her latest husband created a campaign in 2016 that targeted at motivating people to learn more about the flooding situation in Venice ( an example of climate change's impact). That campaign was named "Mirror The World" and its name came from Vivienne's perspective that to live a good life you must want to learn the world you live in.

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When I started writing this article, all I knew about Vivienne Westwood was that trending necklace with the Vivienne Westwood icon on it. In the process of writing this, I realized how a single fashion designer can have such an impact in more than one field and do much more than simply designing clothes. No wonder Vivienne is an inspiration for many people in the fashion industry and is admired by people outside of it.

Despite her passing, she is very much appreciated by her nation and her social circle as well as the rest of the world. Her influence in the fashion department will always be written in history and the legacy that she left behind will never be forgotten.

Valentine Marselou
5,000+ pageviews

Writer since Apr, 2020 · 2 published articles

Valentine is a bookworm that enjoys binging Gilmore Girls again and again. One of her favorite authors is Sebastian Fitzek as her favourite genre is thriller/horror.