Godmother of Punk: Vivienne Westwood


Corinne Schmidt

On December 29, 2022, English fashion designer and businesswoman Vivienne Westwood died at the age of 81. The iconic artist was known as the godmother of punk due to her bringing of modern punk and new creative fashions into the mainstream. The Vivienne Westwood company was founded in 1971 and became one of the representatives in the luxury industry with punk influences. Westwood began designing in 1965 alongside Malcom McLaren. The two started to pursue a career in fashion. Their boutique, Seditionaries, in London was immensely popular for it’s unique and provocative style. They maintained a partnership for the next five years but then Westwood established herself as an independent artist.

For the next two decades of Westwood’s life, she designed clothing inspired by classical pieces of work. Paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, François Boucher, and Thomas Gainsborough were her main influences. Vivienne continuously took inspiration from the 19th century. Westwood throughly and independently built her own eccentric mini fashion empire. She operated numerous boutiques selling two collections of menswear and three of womenswear. Annually, she’d release bridal clothes. Her regular clothing collections included shoes, hosiery, eyewear, scarves, ties, knitwear. Along with her wardrobe collection, she had sets of cosmetics and perfumes relating to her designs.

Later in the Pagan Years (1987-1992), which Westwood would refer to as major shift in the punk style in the late eighties. Her Harris Tweed collection was extremely influential, inspired by a young girl she saw on a train one day. Ending this era in 1992, Westwood received an OBE for her services to fashion. The Queen at Buckingham palace congratulated her honor. The next era, named Anglomania for the rise supermodels took. During this time, Westwood changed her aesthetic once again “merging historical references while playing with modern proportion and precision-cut tailoring”.

In 1993, Westwood married Austrian design student, Andreas Kronthaler. The couple formed a successful partnership in both life and work. The two stayed together until her death parted them. Her final era, ‘Activism and androgy’ from 2000 to present. She began to use her fashion influence to promote her political platform especially her chief causes: environmentalism and saving the planet. In 2015, she had a collection named Unisex which paved the way for androgynous fashion. Dame Dame Vivienne Westwood’s was announced by her team. “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better,” an official statement said. “She led an amazing life.”