VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

Vivienne Westwood is a British fashion designer, businesswoman, and leader through the modern punk era. She opened her first boutique in 1970 in London.

Index

  1. The Origin
  2. First Boutique
  3. The Sex Pistols
  4. Career Shifting
  5. The Six Best Fashion Designers on Earth
  6. New Stylistic Path
  7. New Lines and Store Openings
  8. Exhibitions
  9. Success in Foreign Market
  10. Vivienne Returns to the Runway
  11. Entering the Asian Market
  12. Current Situation

The Origin

Vivienne Westwood is a famous British fashion designer who was born in 1941. She changed the history of fashion as the “muse of punk.” Born in Glossop, Derbyshire, she was the daughter of textile factory workers Dora and Gordon Swire who named her Vivienne Isabel in homage to the actress Vivien Leigh.

Vivienne Westwood in 1970s
Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s

She was educated at the Glossop Grammar School. Prophetic, for her future career, was the school’s motto: “Virtus, veritas, libertas.” She studied silversmithing at Harrow School of Art, then later became a primary school teacher while also making her own jewelry. After a short marriage to Derek Westwood she began a relationship with the musician Malcolm McLaren, and they had a son in 1968, Joseph Ferdinand, now the owner of a fetish shop in London’s Soho.

First Boutique

In 1970, the couple opened a shop called Let it Rock at 430 King’s Road. A forerunner of the cultural contaminations that were to come, the store sold 1950s records and outfits inspired by that period. In 1972, in the same store with a new sign, reading Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, she presented her first collection, dedicated to the Rockers. Among her first celebrity clients was Ringo Starr for whom the fashion designer invented the costumes for the movie That’ll Be the Day.Decisive to her work and her success, in any case, was certainly her ties with McLaren. With him, in 1974, she introduced leather outfits, rubber shirts, chains, and T-“shirts with pornographic images.

The Sex Pistols

Vivienne Westwood's Shop "Sex" in London 1976. Photographed by Sheila Rock
Vivienne Westwood’s Shop “Sex” in London 1976. Photographed by Sheila Rock

The setting for the succession of provocations is the usual boutique on King’s Road, appropriately renamed “Sex.” The police raided the place, in an attempt to shut down the den scandals, but behind the now shuttered windows of the shop, even more-revolutionary fermentations were bubbling away. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm were getting ready to launch the band the Sex Pistols. At the time the band was an aesthetic and musical icon of the punk movement, which abhorred the hypocrisy of the time and which fought it, lambasting the codes of behavior of the establishment.

For the occasion, the shop changed its name to Seditionaries: a play of words between seduction and sedition. As Giannino Malossi noted in his book Liberi Tutti (Mondadori) “The punks knew that clothing can be a weapon of subversion, just as books and manifestoes can be.” And Seditionaries supplied, in terms of fashions and poses, the manual of the new anarchists who were playing at London’s Roxy, piercing their cheeks with safety pins and combing and gelling their hair into menacing crests. Also, the adoption of traditional elements of Scottish design such as tartan fabric were essential to the punk movement.

Vivienne Westwood Wear a God Save the Queen Slogan T-shirt Worn by Malcolm McClaren
“Wear a God Save the Queen” Slogan T-shirt Worn by Malcolm McClaren

The couple of “lost souls” reached the culmination of their greatest provocation and popularity in 1977, when the Sex Pistols, in tribute to the Silver Jubilee celebrating the 25th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, recorded on the Virgin label, God Save the Queen. It was not exactly pleasant or pleasing. The song called Her Majesty a “moron” immediately shot to the top of the hit parades and become an anthem of the punk movement, now a worldwide phenomenon.

Career Shifting

From the rebellion of the 1970s to the hedonism of the dawning 1980s, Vivienne Westwood, along with McLaren, together designed their official collections, and were showed in Paris and London. Their first official collection together was the Pirates collection, which launched the New Romantic look, and also witnessing the entry of Vivienne’s clothing into the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Vivienne Westwood Pirate Collection
Vivienne Westwood’s Pirate Collection

Perhaps it was the decline of the punk rebellion that inspired the new name of World’s End for her London shop and her move onto the runways of France. In 1982, after Mary Quant, she became the first English designer to be accepted into the calendar of French défilés. And even the fields of collaboration of “Lady Viv” changed, shifting from the world of music to the world of art.

In 1983, she presented her Witches collection, which were created with close ties to the graffiti artist Keith Haring, corresponding to the end of her relationship with McLaren. Some thought that this transition also marked the end of the genius of Vivienne Westwood.

Vivienne Westwood Witches Collection
Vivienne Westwood Witches Collection

In 1985, the fashion designer’s farewell to the French runways only seemed to confirm this view. But she continued to enjoy success with her Crini Collection that year. The collection included crinoline minis, incredibly high stacks, and footwear, according to its creator, that was “designed to place feminine beauty high on a pedestal.” And it was on those shoes, now called platforms, that the top model Naomi Campbell fell victim to an accident during a runway presentation, tripping over her dizzyingly high heels, she fell in a disastrous spread-eagle collapse.

The Six Best Fashion Designers On Earth

The increasingly dizzying ups and downs of the fashion designer, however, did nothing to undercut her prestige and her high consideration in the world of fashion. For her and for her fashion shows, always featuring a title as if there were pieces of conceptual theater, all the most famous top models were willing to work free of charge. While John Fairchild, publisher of WWD, in his 1989 book, Chic Savages, included Westwood as the only woman among the six best fashion designers on earth.

She began to present in London again in 1987 with her collection Harris Tweed, and from 1989 to 1991 the fashion designer agreed to lecture at the Academy of the Applied Arts in Vienna, as a professor in fashion. During this experience she developed her ideas for a menswear collection which she presented in a preview showing in 1990 in Florence, during Pitti Uomo.

Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 1987
Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 1987

Her reputation by this point was so great that even Queen Elizabeth, forgiving the insult of God Save the Queen, awarded the fashion designer in 1992 with the honor of naming her a member of the Order of the British Empire. But it was at the end of that ceremony, seemingly a marker of a truce with the establishment, that Vivienne flipped up her skirt for the cameras of the photographers, showing the world that she does not wear underwear. “Never,” she added publicly, doubling the dose of provocation.

New Stylistic Path

Vivienne Westwood Pirates Collection
Vivienne Westwood’s Pirates Collection

And yet the Harris Tweed collection seems to have marked a new stylistic path, a nostaligic love of the past without the slightest avant-garde sneer or snicker, taking refuge in the period clothing of the eighteenth century. Vivienne Westwood exclaimed, 

“As soon as I realized that the establishment requires opposition,” she later explained, “I began to ignore them and focused my attention on more important things, like history.”

In fact, to the simpering notes Vivaldi, the former muse of punk brought out into the spotlight crinolines and white wigs. This did not prevent her from experimenting with new fields of contamination, however. In 1993, she was the first big fashion designer to design a Swatch wristwatch: the pop Putti with baroque angels, followed the next year by the Orb. This latter creation featured the fashion designer’s logo, which summarizes her philosophy: a royal orb, symbol of tradition, surrounded by a ring of Saturn, emblem of the passage of time and the new creations that incessantly emerge from the past.

And, in keeping with these concepts, in 1996, when, at the invitation of Nicola Trussardi, La Westwood launched her first menswear collection at the former Motta factory in Milan. The logo of the line, Man, was written in characters shaped like dolmens. Although she remained loyal “to the quality of stylistic research in opposition to the quantity of items manufactured.”

New Lines and Store Openings

At the end of the 1990s, she reorganized and articulated her production. She added in 1997 to the Gold Label, which was produced in England, with tailoring techniques and presented in Paris. The second line, the Red Label, she presented in London but manufactured in Italy, along with the Man Label, which was produced by the Italiana Staff International. That same year Anglomania made its debut, which was men’s and women’s streetwear manufactured and distributed by the Italian company G.T.R.

In conjunction with the rapidly proliferating number of products, she opened single-label boutiques around the world: from Tokyo to London (Conduit Street). Also Westwood launched a women’s perfume in London in 1998, and in 2002 a men’s scent would join it. Among the many marketing strategies, Westwood artistic and provocative genius continued to prove its fertility.

Exhibitions

While in 1996 the fashion designer took part in the exhibition New Persona at the Stazione Leopolda in the context of the Biennale della Moda di Firenze. Then, in 1998 she returned to the front pages of newspapers throughout the world, because one of her models was caught sniffing on the runway. “It was just snuff, tobacco,” she claimed. “Something less legal,” theorized the media. Always and in any case a gesture somewhere between “tradition and transgression,” representative of this interpreter of highly discipline anarchy. Or, if you will, of the discipline of anarchy, however we choose to phrase it.

An exhibition on the most delirious styles of British fashion could not fail to include items from Vivienne Westwood’s production, and indeed, the creations of the London fashion designer were present in the exhibit “London Fashions,” held by the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. From October 16, 2001 to January 12, 2002 there were one hundred original creations on view, from the work of Mary Quant to Stella McCartney, based on the idea that “London is the only city on earth capable of creating street styles that wind up on runways.”

Success in Foreign Market

At the end of November 2002 the griffe was present during Moscow’s fashion week at the “Rossia State Central Concert Hall,” along with the names of Emilio Pucci, Julien MacDonald, and Emanuel Ungaro. For Christmas 2002, a collection of apparel and accessories for dogs was inaugurated, following in the footsteps of fashion designers who were the first to think of satisfying the needs of the four-footed “clientele”, Hermès, Gucci and Burberry.

In 2003 the brand experienced one step backward in the United States and two steps forward in Paris and the Far East, with the closure of the New York flagship in the neighborhood of SoHo and the announcement of openings in Asia and in the French capital.

For the Austrian Wolford group, she designed a line of body outfits with laces, knitwear, and jackets.

Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 2006
Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 2006

In 2006 Vivienne Westwood was appointed with the title of Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, one of the most important rewards in the United Kingdom. In the same year, the brand significantly expanded into the Soviet market, through the opening of several new stores in the cities of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kiev and Baku. The following year, in honour of her 35 years of career, Palazzo Reale in Milan dedicated an exhibition to her, presented by the Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi.

Vivienne Returns to The Runway

Vivienne Westwood Red Label 2008
Red Label 2008

After 10 years of absence, in 2008, the eccentric Vivienne Westwood made her come back on the London fashion scene showcasing the Fall/Winter Red Label collection, whose aim was to draw the attention on the climate changes that were affecting the planet, in order to push fashion to become more and more sustainable and accessible.

Later on, the fashion house decided to take on a partnership with the American label, Lee Jeans, to produce a mini-collection called “Anglomania.” The aim of this collection was to give a new sense to denim and therefore to open its first U.S. store in the heart of the Melrose shopping district in L.A. At the same time, the Vivienne Westwood Red Label line launched a new eco-friendly collection called “CHOICE”, whose products included T-shirts, skirts, dresses and jackets made with organic fabrics through a particular manufacturing technique where style could meet sustainability.

Vivienne Westwood Red Nose Tshirts
The Red Nose T-shirts

In 2011 Vivienne Westwood had the honour to open Shanghai Fashion Week as the icon of European fashion. In the same year she produced a T-shirts line exclusively created for charity purposes, which she called “Red Nose”, in honour of the red nose printed on the iconic pictures.

Entering the Asian Market

The following year, after seeing a raise in revenues, the brand was ready to conquer the Asian market, in particular China’s. That was the same year when the eccentric Vivienne sided with Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, in order for him to obtain political asylum from Ecuador Embassy.

The 2013 collections were inspired by the Middle Ages, more precisely by Alessandro Magno’s achievements. The highlights on the runway were heavy pieces layered one on the other, wide hooded capes and metallic meshes mixed with courtesans dresses, all of which summarized a kind of contemporaneity that recalled past times.

Sustainability

Vivienne Westwood 2013 Fashion Show Climate Revolution
2013 Fashion Show for Climate Revolution

The punk activist also re-elaborated the western theme in a new key, sending a political and eco-friendly message against the intensive animal farming, to support the Pigledge association, whose main aim is to protect pigs.

She also sided with the “No Brexit” protest, wearing a t-shirt with an ironic sentence that seeked to push youngsters to vote in order not to be subdued by older generations. One of the most important happenings in the last years took place in the “LSE London School of Economics” where Vivienne Westwood gave a lecture on a very sensitive subject that she always tried to stress through her collections, that is the protection of the environment.

Current Situation

Vivienne Westwood Featured in the Spring 2017 Ads
Vivienne Westwood Featured in the Spring 2017 Ads

In 2016, Vivienne Westwood appointed her husband, who has been by her side for the last 25 years, to the main line of her brand which will be called “Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood”. Also, through December 2016 to February 2017 the Art K11 Foundation curated the exhibition “Get a Life”, which is dedicated to the “Woman Who Co-Created Punk” and will take place in Shanghai.

To this day the activist-designer is one of the 10 most paid designers in the world, boasting a $96 million dollar capital and she continues to keep on growing in the market by opening new stores and launching new capsule collections, like the “ready-to-buy” of the main line.

Waistcoat

One the three elements in a man’s three-piece suit: sleeveless, buttoned in front with a V neck or lapels, it is worn over the shirt and under the jacket. It is the only element in a man’s suit that allows a little personal fantasy. The front is made of cloth, the back of silk, with two strips at the back that tighten the waistcoat with a small buckle. It first appeared in its present form in the 1800s. Its first incarnation was under the name gilet in the second half of the 17th century, with sleeves and worn under a justicoat (from the French just-au-corps from the reign of King Louis XIV). In Venice in 1700 it was named camiziola or camisola and its transformation began. At the end of the 19th century it became part of a woman’s wardrobe. In the late 1960s it often replaced the jacket in a pantsuit, and can be very long, almost to the knee. Other than in fabric, it can be manufactured also in knitwear, with or without sleeves, with or without buttons in the front, in the latter case rather similar to a cardigan. At the end of the 1980s, designers created elegant and sophisticated versions, reminiscent of the rich waistcoats of the 18th century. It is made in silk, jacquard, taffeta, velvet, or damask, and either plain dyed or decorated with floral patterns, enriched by embroideries and decorations.

Weinberg

Sammy (1921). French apparel manufacturer. He is a child of the Sentier, the Parisian quarter that houses the largest number of fashion artisans. With his brother Maurice, in 1946, he industrialized the small womenswear business they had inherited from their father, where he had begun to work at the age of 15. The familyl business was specialized in overcoats and non-name tailleurs. In 1962, Sammy built a technologically advanced plant at Bourges, with warehouses in Chateauneuf, and expanded production, putting his name on the product (Weinberg and, from 1980 on, Rhapsodie as well), aiming at an up-market target. In 1989, he acquired Jean-Claude, a prêt-à-porter manufacturer. He is one of the first French industrialists to institute a policy of outsourcing overseas: Portugal and Eastern Europe. The company has about 700 employees.

Warnaco

American manufacturer of intimatewear and men’s fashion. The company produces underwear for Calvin Klein, Olga, Valentino and Warner, and men’s apparel for Ralph Lauren (Chaps line). It sells to over 16,000 stores. It is considered the second-largest American group in the sector of women’s underwear, immediately behind Sara Lee Playtex. It employs some 20,000 people.
&Quad;In 2001, the American manufacturer, long insolvent toward the brands it licensed, went through its darkest moment: in June it was placed in Chapter 11, for bankruptcy protection, and was put under court administration. The debts amounted to 2.45 billion dollars. The first step out of Chapter 11 was the elimination of the sleep line GJM and the lingerie lines Izka and Lejaby, as well as various remixings of the management. The restructuing yielded its first fruit and, after 18 months, the group emerged from Chapter 11, reducing its debt to 247 million dollars. Even with a management structure missing several of the key positions that had not been reassigned, the New York-based company ended 2002 with less operating losses and debts than the year before.
&Quad;In Spring of 2003, the return to health could be said to be definitively underway when Nautica Apparel signed a multi-year agreement with Warnaco to license the production and sale of its lines of swimwear. Today Warnaco has become once again one of the leading names in the production of swimsuits, intimatewear, menswear, jeanswear and accessories with its own labels and with licensing agreements for Calvin Klein, Chaps and Polo by Ralph Lauren, Speedo-Authentic Fitness and others.

Weitzman

Stuart. He designs and produces two collections a year of shoes and bags, plus one collection for the Oscars. He is loved by actresses, internationally successful, and was born in New York, the son of a footwear manufacturer known as Mr. Seymour. At the age of twenty-four he replaced his father and continued production in Elda, near Alicante, in Spain, production that has now attained the volume of 2 million pairs per year. There are twelve single-label shops in the United States and twelve more around the world, while the headquarters is in New York. He is famous for having produced a million-dollar pair of shoes: a sandal-qua-jewelry made of platinum and 64-carat diamonds, worn by Laura Harring during the Oscar ceremonies in 2002. The value of the shoes were then donated to charity, a subject toward which Weitzman is especially sensitive: every year he organizes an event on behalf of breast cancer research. He sends various stars a white satin stiletto-heeled pair of shoes, which they paint, decorate, or simply sign. Then he auctions them off for charity.
&Quad;In 1998 he inaugurated his online boutique, for internet purchase of his shoes which, over the years, have become enriched with new materials such as vinyl, cork, and wallpaper. On the same website, it is possible to view and buy his line of handbags as well.
&Quad;In Summer 2003, he inaugurated a new single-label shop at Columbus Circle in New York. Weitzman shoes, distributed in 57 nations around the world through 24 boutiques and flagship stores, are present in Italy with 85 sales outlets.

Weave

The way in which threads are intertwined to create a fabric. The most common weaves are cloth, twill (and its derivate batavia), and satin.

Western Style

A vernacular fashion. It triggered the most powerful peaceful revolution ever seen in the field of clothing. Blue jeans are the item of clothing that only a few people on earth have decided not to include in their wardrobe. They are also the first example of mass “dressing down” that became a tacitly accepted rule, in which the middle class adopted the clothing of the working class. If, along the span of the 1950s, jeans and “dressing down” expanded into the middle class, the western style, almost in form of compensation, evolved increasingly toward an ornate and glamorous elegance. For that matter, from the very beginning, the figure of the cowboy (as in the many Hollywood movies featuring singing cowboys in the 1930s and 1940s) is a figure from the mass imagination, rather than a genuine depiction of reality, the reality of the hard manual labor of the prairies. In this sense the Las Vegas version of the cowboy, dressed in rhinestones and lamé, is the natural consequence of the process of self-legitimizaiton in stylistic terms. Nudie Cohen was one of the masterminds of this process. Much of the glamorous excesses, from Gene Autry and Roy Rogers to Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton, were the products of his inventive mind. He made an important contribution to the appropriation of an imaginative style as evident proof of success.