Vivienne Westwood, great lady of fashion and figure of punk, died at 81

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, here October 4, 2005, during the presentation of her Spring-Autumn 2006 collection, in Paris.

She gained notoriety with shocking and highly politicized images from the 1970s. © Michel Euler / AP

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British designer Vivienne Westwood, grand dame of provocative and eccentric fashion and inventor of a punk aesthetic in the 1970s, died Thursday, December 29 at the age of 81.


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She was both " 

the empress of punk

 " and the star designer of British fashion, making her profession a political platform: " 

Vivienne Westwood died today, in peace and surrounded by her family in Clapham, South London.

The world needs people like Vivienne to turn things around for the better


her haute couture brand tweeted Thursday, December 29


In a statement quoted by the PA agency, her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler added: “ 

We worked until the end and she left me a lot to continue.

Thank you, my darling


The Austrian, 25 years his junior, took over the artistic direction of his label in 2016, now the Westwood brand: a rebellious, transgressive and committed label.

Defending ideas makes me happy

 ," she told her friend Ian Kelly, co-author with her of a biography published in 2014.

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, here in 2004, during a retrospective of her work at the Victoria and Albert museum, London, March 30, 2004. © Russell Boyce / Reuters

Worldwide success with the punk aesthetic embodied by the Sex Pistols

Born Vivienne Swire - Westwood being the name of her first husband, with whom she remained for four years - on April 8, 1941 in a small village in the county of Derbyshire (central England), she was the eldest of a modest family of three children.

She left her native region at the age of 17 for London where she studied fashion.

His meeting with Malcolm McLaren,

the future manager of the Sex Pistols group

, changes his life.

Driven by the same desire to break with the " Peace and Love

" generation 

 of the 1960s, the couple started making clothes and opened a shop on King's Road in 1970. The couple sold torn T-shirts, chains, padlocks, safety pins, swastikas and other accessories.

Porn T-shirts, outfits inspired by sadomasochism, pumps with stiletto heels or vinyl tights make up the outfits that Vivienne Westwood wears in front of dumbfounded passers-by: success is there.

Their closeness to the

Sex Pistols, whose hit “ 

God save the Queen

 ” was a worldwide success

, anchored the couple in the punk universe.

Vivienne Westwood, hair dyed orange or white, dresses Johnny Rotten's band and McLaren markets the punk aesthetic.

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, here in 2004, during a retrospective of her work at the Victoria and Albert museum, London, March 30, 2004. © Alastair Grant / AP

Always Punk


It was during this period that she designed her famous T-shirt featuring the face of Queen Elizabeth.

In 1981, she organized her first parade in London, which she named “ 



Separated from Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood then forged her own style in the 1980s, and her brand enjoyed great success the following decade.

She remarried in 1993 with Andreas Kronthaler, who taught fashion in Vienna and became her creative partner.


What I do today is still punk.

It's always about crying out against injustice and making people think even if it's uncomfortable.

I will always remain punk in this sense

 , ”she confided to Ian Kelly.

Political and ecological commitment

True to her irreverent spirit, she was photographed in 1992 leaving Buckingham Palace without underwear.

The designer had just been made an officer of the British Empire by the Queen and had bared her private parts as she twirled her skirt.

But above all, Vivienne Westwood remains

an ultra-politicized fashion designer


Convictions that she defended on her podiums, such as her commitment to the environment.

As early as 2008, she called on the fashion industry to take climate change into account and urged consumers not to constantly buy clothes, even if her critics pointed out her contradictions in this area.

At a climate protest in London, March 19, 2014. Vivienne Westwood pioneered as early as 2008 calling on the fashion industry to take climate change into account and urging consumers not to constantly buy clothes, even if its detractors pointed out its contradictions in the matter.

AP - Matt Dunham

His other big fight was

the defense of Julian Assange

, the founder of WikiLeaks, arrested in 2019 after having spent more than seven years as a refugee in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

A year later, she appeared in a giant cage in front of a London court to protest her extradition.

At the Official, she confided in 2018: “ 

I used fashion to challenge the status quo.


Here, the British fashion designer protests against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside the Old Bailey Court, London, July 21, 2020. © Matt Dunham / AP

(With AFP & Reuters)


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