Trailblazing Fashion Icon Vivienne Westwood Dead at 81

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Tributes are coming in after the passing of Vivienne Westwood, the trailblazing fashion designer and woman who helped create punk rock’s aesthetic in the 1970s. She died on Thursday at the age of 81. She was 81 years old.

Malcom McLaren was her husband and rock and roll raconteur Malcom Westwood. Their controversial boutique London store helped Westwood define an era. “Sex.” The shop served as a creative space for musicians like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Chrissie Hynde and most famously, the Sex Pistols.

The British-born designer was credited with helping create the Sex Pistols’ image in the 1970s.

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel in Hollingworth (England) on April 8, 1941. Her family relocated from England to Harrow in Middlesex. She then took a course in silversmithing at the University of Westminster. In 1962, she married Derek Westwood (Hoover factory apprentice) and gave birth to Benjamin Westwood in 1963. A few years later, the Westwoods divorced, and Vivienne married Malcolm McLaren, but kept her ex-husband’s name. She gave birth to her second son, Joseph Corré, in 1967.

For Westwood, fashion design was both creative and political.

“I just use my fashion as an excuse to say what I think about politics and culture, really. I think fashion can do something. I think my fashion gives you an incredible choice in an age of conformity and it makes you look great and it helps you express your individuality,”She once spoke to reporters.

She was a tireless worker to increase awareness about issues such as climate change by combining fashion and activism.

“Because I’m so traumatized by the shock of understanding what’s going to happen if the Earth gets hotter. And in a couple of generations billions of people will die unless we do something now,”She told reporters.

As Westwood’s position in the fashion industry grew, Westwood was made a part. “the establishment.”Sort of.

She was even honored by Queen Elizabeth II, who she’d once railed against, and was knighted as a Dame of the British Empire in 1992. But ever the iconoclast, Westwood didn’t wear underwear to the ceremony.

Mourners and their tributes gathered outside of Westwood’s London home and shop following her death. 

Social media was filled with tributes from her famous friends as well as those she inspired.

Sir Paul McCartney called her “a ballsy lady who rocked the fashion world and stood defiantly for what was right.”

Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl posted an image of herself wearing Westwood’s famous crest and coat of arms on a T-shirt.

Russell Brand, comedian, took to Twitter to post. “Goodbye Vivienne Westwood saint of punks, single Mums, entrepreneurs and rebels.”

Rough Trade, a music label that was heavily inspired and motivated by Westwood and McLaren’s aesthetic, posted a picture of her on Social Media calling her “Mother of Punk. Non conformist. Original icon.”

Singer Boy George paid tribute to his friend on Twitter, saying Westwood’s influence was far beyond what conventional fashion houses were doing, saying, she was “laughed at by the fashion industry but without question she is the undisputed Queen of British fashion.”

Even London’s Tube subway system paid tribute to Westwood with an quote from the designer that read, “It’s a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world.”

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