Vivienne Westwood Remembered as Trailblazing British Fashion Icon After Her Death 81

Mourners and tributes could be seen outside of Westwood’s London home and shop this week, to honor the creative icon.

Tributes are coming in after the passing of Vivienne Westwood, the trailblazing fashion designer and woman who helped create punk rock’s aesthetic in the 1970s. She died on Thursday at the age of 81. No cause of death was given.

With her husband, the rock and roll raconteur Malcom McLaren, Westwood defined the look of an era thanks to their controversial boutique London store “Sex.” The shop served as a creative space for musicians like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Chrissie Hynde and most famously, the Sex Pistols.

The British-born designer was credited with helping create the Sex Pistols’ image in the 1970s.

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Hollingworth, England, on April 8, 1941. Her family relocated to Harrow, Middlesex, and she took a silversmith course at the University of Westminster. She married Hoover factory apprentice Derek Westwood in 1962 and gave birth to her first son, Benjamin Westwood, in 1963. A few years later, the Westwoods divorced, and Vivienne married Malcolm McLaren, but kept her ex-husband’s name. She gave birth to her second son, Joseph Corré, in 1967.

For Westwood, fashion design was both creative and political.

“I just use my fashion as an excuse to say what I think about politics and culture, really. I think fashion can do something. I think my fashion gives you an incredible choice in an age of conformity and it makes you look great and it helps you express your individuality,” she once told reporters.

She worked to raise awareness of issues like climate change, marrying fashion with activism.

“Because I'm so traumatized by the shock of understanding what's going to happen if the Earth gets hotter. And in a couple of generations billions of people will die unless we do something now,” she told reporters.

As her place in the fashion world grew, Westwood became part of "the establishment." Sort of.

She was even honored by Queen Elizabeth II, who she’d once railed against, and was knighted as a Dame of the British Empire in 1992. But ever the iconoclast, Westwood didn’t wear underwear to the ceremony.

Mourners and their tributes gathered outside of Westwood’s London home and shop following her death. 

Tributes from some of her famous friends and those she inspired also poured in on social media.

Sir Paul McCartney called her “a ballsy lady who rocked the fashion world and stood defiantly for what was right.”

Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl posted an image of herself wearing Westwood’s famous crest and coat of arms on a T-shirt.

Comedian Russell Brand took to Twitter to write, “Goodbye Vivienne Westwood saint of punks, single Mums, entrepreneurs and rebels.”

The music label Rough Trade, which was heavily inspired by the aesthetic that Westwood and McLaren created, posted an image of her on social media calling her “Mother of Punk. Non conformist. Original icon.”

Singer Boy George paid tribute to his friend on Twitter, saying Westwood’s influence was far beyond what conventional fashion houses were doing, saying, she was “laughed at by the fashion industry but without question she is the undisputed Queen of British fashion.”

Even London’s Tube subway system paid tribute to Westwood with an quote from the designer that read, “It's a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world.”

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