BOLD, fierce, unconventional and deliciously rebellious are some of the many adjectives to describe Dame Vivenne Westwood’s incredible body of work. Westwood’s legacy as one of the most endearing and most influential fashion designers has left a creative mark and impact to designers all over the world. Innovatively weaving in her advocacies — such as adamantly condemning racial injustice, fearlessly advocating for the freedom of the Palestinians, staunchly advocating for human rights, and many more — in every stitch in every masterpiece that she produced.
A dichotomy that she tirelessly carried throughout her career, Westwood was able to shed light to some of the world’s pressing social issues and has always highlighted her activism for change and peace until her death on Dec. 29, 2022. She has set the standard for aspiring artists to not limit their art and vision within the medium itself but to push beyond the creative boundaries of the artform of fashion, conveying a more substantial message of hope and optimism.
A trip down memory lane allows us to get a glimpse of the designer’s rise to fame. From the dingy yet exciting corners of London into one of the most sought out independent fashion brands in the world, Westwood has not only cemented her legacy in the fashion world but also in the hearts of those who were entranced by her eccentric personality, charm and undeniable thirst for change.
Foundation of British punk
Westwood will always be known to be one of the pillars of British punk as the subculture was beginning to permeate the changing landscape of London, particularly where her first store called “Let it Rock” stood ground at 430 Kings Road, Chelsea, London.
Playing an integral role in solidifying the punk getup, Westwood breathed life to a style subculture that was made for those who opposed the status quo. To this day, her ensembles have become the visual anthem of a discontented youth, calling for radical change.
Pearls for days
Fashion enthusiasts can all agree that the genius of Westwood can be seen in her accessories, and are considered fashion staples to this day. Her iconic pearl choker had quite the “chokehold” the past three years. Its huge return as one of the biggest fashion trends since the rise of the retro aesthetic is reflective of the times that Vivienne’s work has always sprung forth from — a period that once again calls for radical change. The pearl choker has now become a fashion staple and it only goes to show that Westwood’s work and legacy will always be relevant.
Once a rebel, always a rebel
A revolutionist in her own right, Westwood has unparalleled command when it comes to reinventing something traditional into something more fitting into the times, showcasing her innovative and creative prowess not only as a designer but her way of challenging the orthodox. She reignited global interest in traditional British clothing particularly the tartan plaid, which significantly bears political significance — a longtime symbol of freedom that amplifies Westwood’s unconventional and endearingly rebellious nature of her designs.
These days, the fashion world still has yet to match Westwood’s ardent pursuit for change through creative means. It is a stark reminder that sometimes, artists should deviate themselves from “art for art’s sake” and take drastic steps towards making a better world.
As she famously said, “I have an in-built clock that always reacts against anything orthodox.”
All throughout her career, Dame Vivienne Westwood unceasingly used her creativity and innate fashion sense to inspire generations of aspiring designers and artists to be a ripple of change through their respective mediums. As people continue to rock her pearl chokers and tartan plaids, let it serve as a reminder that a great artist must not only have an inherent taste in fashion but also a deep sense of social responsibility.