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Westwood, Vivienne

collection fashion punk designer

B. April 8, 1941

Birthplace: Glossop, Derbyshire, England

Awards: British Designer of the Year, 1990, 1991
         Fashion Group International Award, 1996
         Order of the British Empire, 1992
         Queen’s Export Award, 1998

Born Vivienne Isabel Swire, Westwood came of age in London during the birth of the punk rock movement. Westwood, who was a schoolteacher in the 1960s, never had any intention of working in fashion. However, this self-taught fashion designer came to define the look of two major youth movements: punk rock in the 1970s and the New Romantics in the 1980s.

When Westwood meet Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the seminal British punk band the Sex Pistols, the two formed a collaboration which continued until 1984. Together, Westwood and McLaren opened a clothing store in 1971 on King’s Road and became the parents of the punk movement. The store, alternately known as Let it Rock (1971), Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die (1972), Sex (1974), Seditionaries (1977), and World’s End (1980), became an outlet for fashions which reflected the basic tenets of the punk rock movement: sex and violence. Westwood’s leather bondage garments, t-shirts with situational slogans and pornographic images, and ripped and safety-pinned clothing captured the antiestablishment, antifash- ion attitude of the rebellious youth movement. Then, the unthinkable happened; the Sex Pistols folded and the punk movement faded. Westwood, who had never thought of herself a designer, was contemplating her next pursuit, when she realized the fashions she had created were influencing the Paris runways.

Westwood decided seriously to pursue a career in fashion design. In 1981 she held her first runway show in London. Her “Pirate” collection launched a new fashion trend and drew Westwood international attention. Two years later, in 1983, she debuted her collection on the Paris runways, the first British designer since Mary Quant to show in Paris. Over the course of the next two decades, Westwood continued to present outrageous, provocative, and sexually charged collections which usually drew praise, but were always noticed. Her collections have featured underwear as outerwear, bustiers, corsets, “mini-crini” short hooped skirts, mink G-strings, satin codpieces, bustles, and leather bondage ensembles.

Westwood designs and presents one collection divided into two parts: the Red Label is the inexpensive core of the collection; the Gold Label provides a small selection of high-fashion pieces. Her collections have always integrated menswear, but in 1990 Westwood presented her first full menswear collection. In 1997 Westwood added the Anglomania line for men and women, under license to GTR, to target a younger customer. She also launched a handbag collection in 1992, a footwear line licensed to Guido Pasquali in 1994, and a fragrance, Boudoir, in 1998.

When Westwood first entered the fashion arena, it was to shock society. Her first line was made from rubber negligees she ordered out of a pornographic catalogue. Since then, Westwood has become a master tailor. She has even received awards for her use of the classic British fabric: wool. Westwood continues to grow and mature as a designer, developing a more sophisticated style with every collection, while still retaining a touch of youthful rebellion.

Wexner, Leslie - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Leslie Wexner, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] West Side Story (1961) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique

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