by AdminAg

Vivienne Westwood, known by the nickname ‘Godmother of Punk’, dies at 81

Written by Fabrizio Barbuto 

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood passed away on 29 December, following complications from an illness that had long been kept secret.

It was enough just to look at her to realise how much, the imagination she was pervaded by, was going to come out of her and contaminate the world with colour, beauty and ‘madness’.  Today she is mainly celebrated as a fashion designer, but she was much more than that. 

From anti-global warming activist to staunch supporter of LGBT rights, Westwood has never spared herself, and her philanthropy has earned her numerous awards and titles, including: Officer of the British Empire and Dame of Commendation of the British Empire. However, the most fitting investiture for her genuinely subversive spirit, perhaps, was ‘Godmother of Punk’, bestowed upon her by music critics.

Vivienne’s genius first found expression among the stalls of Portobello Road, a picturesque London market where the artist, not yet 30, offered costume jewellery designed by herself. This experience was followed, in King’s Road, by the opening of a small clothes shop where Westwood, together with her then friend and future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, began to be appreciated for her sexy and sometimes fetish creations in the first half of the 1970s.

In a London eager for change, Vivienne taught her fellow citizens that to be modern you don’t have to renounce tradition, you just have to desecrate it. IWith this spirit, from the sometimes distant past, she borrowed iconic garments and revisited them. It was the prelude to a global consecration, which still sees Vivienne as a fashion legend today.

Even the inflexible Elizabeth II, in the light of a talent that brought prestige to the whole of England, was lenient with Westwood when she showed up at Buckingham Palace without underwear, attracting general attention, especially from the tabloids, who went crazy over her.  Summoned by Her Majesty the Queen, in 1992, Vivienne arrived at Court to be awarded the title of ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’. Although there was no hint of scandal and the guest’s outfit was unusually restrained, when posing for the photographers Westwood turned in on herself and the longuette skirt she was wearing treacherously lifted up revealing the total absence of underwear.

As a true rebel, Vivienne’s love life was no less convulsive than her professional one. She had two marriages, the first to Derek Westwood in 1962 and the second to Austrian Andreas Kronthaler, her fashion student, in 1992. At the time of her ‘yes’, Kronthaler was 26 years old, against his wife’s 51. In between the two relationships there was another important love story for Vivienne with Malcolm McLaren, by whom she had her first and only child, Joseph, in the second half of the 1960s.

The upward parabola that led Vivienne Westwood from the stalls of Portobello Road to the most sumptuous fashion shows around the world has something of the epic, but such an evolution is in perfect harmony with her talent, more unique than rare, which the late designer described as follows: ‘I’m not trying to do something different, I’m trying to do the same thing but in a different way.

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