Pin It
Vivienne Westwood AW93
Vivienne Westwood AW93Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood is 80! Here’s five of her most iconic moments

We dive into some of the renegade designer's most memorable catwalk turns

Not long before she stormed the fashion world with her 1981 debut collection, Vivienne Westwood was a primary school teacher who sometimes sold jewellery on Portobello Road. It’s an easy image to conjure – the twenty-something Dame jangling through hallways in safety-pinned tartan bustiers, clunking platforms, and a school lanyard. Her back-combed, fiery mane bobbing along to her soapbox politics and impassioned tirades between hymns at Friday assemblies. Her inexplicable, but surely undoubted, beef with the PE department. It’s not too dissimilar to Westwood today, as she frequently takes to Instagram in full Elizabethan-punk attire to deliver feverish sermons on anti-capitalism and climate change.

While the designer’s attention has shifted even further in the direction of activism in recent years, with her husband Andreas Kronthaler now at the helm of her eponymous brand, Westwood is, and always will be, fashion royalty. Her renegade aesthetic, synonymous with its use of 18th century cutting techniques, BDSM accents, and sexed-up tartan forged a whole new vernacular within the industry. Her consistent and searing twists on tradition (think the mini-crini, boucher corsets, and cut-and-paste Marie Antoinette gowns) have become touchstones of the designer’s anti-establishment philosophy. “I’ve constantly tried to provoke people into thinking afresh and for themselves, to escape their inhibitions and programming,” she explained in the show notes to the V&A’s 2004 exhibition, Vivienne Westwood: 30 Years in Fashion. Now over 50 years in fashion, Westwood continues to poke and prod at our conditioning. 

Be it flashing photographers at her damehood, swinging from a birdcage outside the Old Bailey, or breakdancing to ABBA at an anti-fracking protest, Westwood has rarely played it by the book. And as a result, her shows – full of swaggering buccaneers, transgressive dandies, and bawdy mistresses – have created some of the most memorable snapshots of fashion history. On her 80th birthday, we take a look at some of the defining moments on Vivienne Westwood’s runways. Happy Birthday, Queen Viv!