The Enduring Legacy of Dame Vivienne Westwood

The Enduring Legacy of Dame Vivienne Westwood

The fashion industry remembers Vivienne Westwood, the revolutionary “Queen of British Fashion”



Celebrities, fashion aficionados and mainstays took to the internet to pour their respects for Vivienne Westwood, the revolutionary British fashion designer who passed away December 29, 2022. Aged 81, the activist and creative force continues to be celebrated for her impeccable influence and legacy. Widely known for her work rooted in her contributions to London’s 70s punk movement, Vivienne Westwood became a creative force in the glamorous world of fashion. Names like Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, Halsey and Marc Jacobs penned heartfelt messages around the news.



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A post shared by Vivienne Westwood (@viviennewestwood)


Ahead, we look back at Vivienne Westwood’s long-standing legacy.


In London’s Punk Movement


One of the most notable and defining eras of Vivienne Westwood’s career is her large contribution to London’s burgeoning punk scene in the 1970s. Perched among upscale stores along King’s Road was Westwood’s, called SEX, which she put up with her then-boyfriend Malcolm McLaren. Strikingly contrasting, vulgar and controversial, the message also reflected in the garments they made. Here, Westwood’s creations, as seen on the band, defined punk’s aesthetic: bondage pants, safety pins, ragged graphic tees and fetish-wear-as-everyday-wear. As McLaren then went on to manage Sex Pistols, Westwood took on the role of dressing the icons of the punk movement—including the controversial “God Save Our Queen” Seditionaries shirt.


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In politics


Vivienne Westwood also saw fashion as a means for activism; her creations were the media for her messages. She even appeared on the cover of Tatler Magazine in 1989, parodying then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Anti-establishment but not lawless, she still revered herself as a rebel who always had a cause to push. “I’ve always been a rebel,” she told The Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley. “Punk was a protest, [the clothes] said we don’t accept your taboos, we don’t accept your hypocritical life.” Westwood’s activism also extended to going against capitalism, consumerism and environmental causes that her remaining family will continue to push even after her passing.


In fashion and art


Looking at Vivienne Westwood’s later collections, the fashion designer had a deep interest in history and, by extension, the arts. Her 1990 Portrait Collection took two elements from the 18th century—a Rococo painting and a garment—and merged them into the modernized printed corset. Westwood also explored taking elements in traditional British wear and turning them into sensual pieces, going completely against what these clothes meant to hide. Just take a look at her looks for her Five Centuries Ago collection.


In modern pop culture


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A post shared by Vivienne Westwood (@viviennewestwood)


Vivienne Westwood’s clientele is undoubtedly star-studded, with celebrities hitting the red carpets and the stage in her clothes. From Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham-Carter to Olivia Rodrigo, Zendaya and the cast of Euphoria, many A-listers turn to her for her classy corset gowns and timeless designs. But one of the most popular pop culture artifacts featuring Vivienne Westwood is Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding dress from Sex and the City, plus the Japanese manga and anime named Nana by Ai Yazawa.


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This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Vivienne Westwood was able to accomplish in her five-decade career. The world continues to celebrate her as a highly decorated fashion designer but also one of the biggest forces across disciplines that couldn’t be contained. Not now, not ever.



Banner Images via Dazed Digital and Vivienne Westwood Getty Images via

Art Macky Arquilla

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