The dA-Zed guide to Vivienne Westwood

Happy Birthday Viv! We chart the punk provocateurs life in 26-points in honour of her special day

Vivienne Westwood
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Red Label AW14 Shot by Lea Colombo

On the day of her 73rd birthday, we thought it apt to pay homage to the provocative life of punk pioneer Dame Vivienne Westwood. From political activism, to posing nude for Juergen Teller and being knicker-less in front of HM the Queen, Westwood has reinvented, shocked and radicalised fashion for decades to come. Here’s your comprehensive 26-point guide to all things Westwood.

A IS FOR ANARCHY

It’s safe to say that Vivienne Westwood was at the epicentre of the anarchic punk movement in all its safety-pinned, bondage-bound, leather-clad glory. In fact, she fronted the entire movement with her partner in crime, then husband and manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren. From outspoken slogans to weapon like studded chains, they paved the way for one of the most iconic youth movements to date.

Vivienne Westwood
via: paulgormanis.com

B IS FOR BREASTS (FAKE ONES)

The Queen of controversy, Westwood spiced things up a little at her AW03 menswear show, sending males striding down the catwalk wearing fake breasts underneath their cashmere sweaters and polo neck jumpers. Gender-bending at its most fashionable.

C IS FOR CHAIN GANG

It seems that rebellion runs in the Westwood family. Following in the footsteps of his mother, Ben Westwood took to London with his chain gang in 2009, to protest against the illegalisation of extreme porn. Declaring “1984 is now”, Ben led two gagged and corset-clad “slaves”, Jade and Dolly Blowup around Parliament Square.

Chain Gang
Ben Westwood's chain gang, 1984

D IS FOR DAME VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

Following her OBE in ’92, Westwood was titled Dame Vivienne Westwood in 2006. Her fiery red hair, eclectic dress sense and utterly outspoken persona have won her popularity no end and her string of accolades are testament to this.

Vivienne Westwood
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Red Label AW14 Shot by Lea Colombo

E IS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS

It’s rare to see the fashion hemisphere collide with environmental activism, but in Westwood’s world this is quite frankly the norm. As a long-time activist she utilises her position of power to voice her concerns over sustainability, climate change and the increasing need for global responsibility. Her most recent outburst saw her shower on camera in a lengthy discussion about water scarcity, it’s not every day you get to see that.

F IS FOR ‘FAUX CUL’

Renowned for throwing the pattern book out of the window, Westwood is a lover of the unconventional. So, when the world wanted boobs Westwood gave them bottoms. Introducing the ‘faux cul’, a lightweight bustle she accentuated the female form, later presenting us with the bustier, her signature tartan and ten inch platform shoes – all Westwood staples.

G IS FOR GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

Despite being banned from the radio, “Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen” made it to number two in the British charts in 1977. Westwood’s t-shirt collaboration with Jamie Reid payed tribute to this and soon became some of the most iconic pop culture imagery of the century – our trusty monarch’s face strewn across slashed clothing, pierced with pins. However, in the years following this, the collapse of the Sex Pistols and the infiltration of punk into the mainstream is said to have left Westwood disenchanted.

Sex Pistols

H IS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Westwood’s AW11 campaign was set against the backdrop of a Nairobi slum to promote her partnership with the Ethical Fashion Africa Programme. Through this partnership they aim to support and replenish impoverished communities. Whilst some spectators admired her efforts condoning her “this is not charity, this is work” motto, others slated the campaign referring to it as “poverty porn cliché”. Either way Westwood is determined to make a difference.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood Ethical Fashion Initiative Collection, 2011

I IS FOR ISSUE 163

Issue 163 of Dazed and Confused underwent a thoroughly Westwood takeover in 2008. Whilst the cover states “Vivienne Westwood wants you to get a life”, her content as guest editor continued the political messages she left off at, at her AW08 show. From cultural change and rising sea levels to children modeling eco-warrior vintage Westwood clothing styled by Nicola Formichetti – it was a jam-packed dedication to subverting the status quo.

Dazed & Confused
Dazed & Confused, Issue 163, 2008

J IS FOR JUERGEN TELLER

Juergen Teller’s 2012 exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, New York unveiled a striking image of Westwood reclined naked on an ornate floral settee, covered only by a dainty necklace and a slick of fiery red lipstick. “It was lovely, in her house, on a Sunday evening. I’ve worked with her a long time, and I’m always amazed at how wonderful her skin is” – Juergen Teller.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood, 2012 Shot by Juergen Teller

K IS FOR KNICKER-LESS

Westwood was awarded an OBE from the Queen in 1992, but it wasn’t the typically royal affair one would expect. The wind got the better of Westwood’s tailored skirt and the photographers got the better of her… The result? A knicker-less full-frontal snapshot to show the grandkids. A moment of sheer shock-horror, although rumour has it the Queen was rather amused.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood, 1992 Via: 4.bp.blogspot.com

L IS FOR LILY COLE

Westwood’s SS14 Red Label show saw her collaborate with her long time muse Lily Cole, for a live performance and film driven by the amount of people displaced as a result of natural disasters. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Red Shoes”, the film sees Cole dancing in a mix of Westwood archive pieces. Dazed talked to the fiery-haired duo about creating the film and how fashion needs to engage with globalization.

M IS FOR MALCOLM MCLAREN 

Having met in 1962, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood married and lived together in a Clapham council flat with their son, Joseph Corre who grew up to become co-founder of Agent Provocateur. During their relationship McLaren became manager of Sex Pistols before opening his iconic 430 Kings Road clothing boutique and Westwood abandoned teaching for her real passion, designing clothes. Together they became punk provocateurs, a central force driving the youth movement.

Vivienne and Malcom
Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren via: billyidol.net

N IS FOR NON-CONFORMITY

Westwood skillfully masters the art of fearless non-conformity whilst keeping an undulating sense of tradition. Bored of the late 1960s hippie movement, McLaren and Westwood diverted their attention to 1950s clothing, music and memorabilia. Les Enfants Terribles of the fashion world, together McLaren and Westwood rebelled against the mainstream etching out their own idiosyncratic path which others strived to follow.

Vivienne Westwood Sex
via: ladiesofthe70s.tumblr.com

O IS FOR OLYMPICS

Always in fine-tune with the social, political and cultural movements of the present, Westwood’s SS12 menswear collection was dedicated to the Olympics held in her beloved London. Laurel wreaths and real sports medals were worked into a collection of t-shirts printed with torches and Greek figures, whilst each athletic male was given a dewy (or sweaty) sheen.

P IS FOR PIRATES

“Pirates” was the title for Westwood’s catwalk debut in collaboration with McLaren for AW 81/82. Following collections titled “Savage” and “Buffalo Girls”, the “Pirates” collection was born from her obsession with 18th-century mens clothing patterns – the result, a romantic yet unconventional aesthetic which cemented itself within fashion DNA for years to come. It was the year Westwood pioneered the ever-iconic pirate boot.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood Pirate Collection AW 81/81 via: viviennewestwood.co.uk

Q IS FOR QUEEN OF PUNK

Where there were studs, leather and safety-pins, there was music and it was McLaren and Westwood’s ability to synthesise clothing and music that shaped the 1970s cultural movement. Although despite her punk bravado, born and raised in the country, Westwood is a hippie at heart who once said that  “vegetarianism could ultimately be the most radical political statement of all”. Nonetheless her name is synonymous with the punk era.

R IS FOR RULE OF TARTAN

A key code in the history of Westwood, traditional Tartan is the punk provocateurs pattern of choice. Whether it is plastered on dresses, suits, trousers or handbags, it remains the uniform of punk, of youth and of the Westwood legacy. Season after season, we see a thoroughly tartan takeover.

Vivienne-Westwoon-Tartan
Vivienne Westwood SS10 via: libbyjlondon.com

S IS FOR SEX

Sex: rubberwear for the office. Under a four-foot-tall pink rubber lettered sign spelling “SEX”, McLaren and Westwood’s 430 Kings Road shop was like no other at that time. Undergoing name changes from Let it Rock in 1971 and Too Fast to Live To Young Too Die in 1972, before becoming Sex in 1974, it was a mecca for provocative slogans, hard-core imagery, bondage and all forms of obscure sexual fetishism. Thrown together with a D.I.Y fashion aesthetic ­– Sex defined the way punk was to be worn.

Vivienne Westwood Sex
430 Kinds Road via: whatgoesaroundnyc.com

T IS FOR THATCHER 

Not one to shy away from controversy, Westwood appeared on the cover of Tatler in 1989 playing dress-up as then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Wearing Thatcher’s suit which had been ordered but not yet delivered, the cover was emblazoned with newspaper ransom letters exclaiming “this woman used to be a punk” – an iconic moment in both history and fashion. It comes as no surprise that Westwood’s impersonation infuriated the Iron Lady. A lot. 

Vivienne-Westwood-Thatcher

U IS FOR ULTRAIST

Westwood’s string of memorable quotes over the years demonstrate that she is not one to bite her tongue. Most recently she declared that we face mass human extinction: “The main message we want to get out there is that climate change is caused by the rotten economic system. If we don’t change public opinion, we’re going to have mass extinction of the human race very, very quickly, in two or three years.”

V IS FOR VIVIENNE WESTWOODS LONDON

January 2011 saw Westwood feature in a Canadian television documentary named Vivienne Westwood's London. Sharing her love of high culture, she takes viewers on a journey to her most loved haunts ­– Courtauld Institute of Art, Brixton Market, the National Gallery and Hampton Court amongst others. 

W IS FOR WHY IT IS GREAT TO BE A PROTESTER

“In the ‘70s protest had a face and you’d get these mass movements like black power or Martin Luther King, that’s a face that you can put a protest to. Gandhi, that’s a face. Today you don’t get that.” In her recent Dazed Digital takeover, Westwood discusses how political activism has changed over the years: “You know you meet all these people you can go to the pub with after, get to know people. It’s great to be a protester.”

X IS FOR X-TREMITY

One of the most visually arresting campaigns in fashion history – Westwood’s SS08 collection took inspiration from George Bernard Shaw’s 1932 novel, The Black Girl in her Search For God. Shot by Juergen Teller, Westwood is seen axe-wielding, squatting over dirt mounds and propped up by tropical birds, tribal masks and machine guns in the thought provoking campaign.

Vivienne Westwood SS08
Vivienne Westwood SS08 campaign. Shot by Juergen Teller via: designscene.net

Y IS FOR YOUTH

Having recently shaved her head in an attempt to draw attention to climate change, the only dashes of fiery red left on Westwood’s body were her tattooed eyebrows. Although despite it being a cut for climate, Westwood also favoured her natural white, to show she’s proud of her age and grwoing old gracefully. As far as we’re concerned you’re as young as you feel, so in Westwood’s case that must be pretty damn young.

1069155
The Fracked Future Carnival Shot by Stuart Griffiths

Z IS FOR ZERO TOLERANCE

Ahead of her AW14 Paris fashion show, Westwood enlightened us to her double life of design and activism and when it comes to tolerance, we learnt that she has zero for fracking. Taking to the streets of London last month, Westwood joined hundreds of anti-fracking campaigners to protest against the controversial process of extracting gas, in other words she told them to frack-off.

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