Dame Vivienne Westwood obituary

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No manner decorator ever had a Paris amusement similar the 1 staged by Vivienne Westwood successful 1991. Although she was by past 50 and had been making apparel for merchantability for 20 years – and the British Fashion Council had named her decorator of the twelvemonth – she stitched overmuch of that postulation connected her ain sewing instrumentality successful her shabby southbound London flat, hand-finishing it successful the van that transported her, and the models, to France, wherever the couturier Azzedine Alaïa had invited her to guest-show. Despite those limitations, the postulation was a large success.

The beingness of Westwood, who has died aged 81, was similar that, some rackety and responsible. She went connected behaving arsenic an eternal student, though she had dropped retired aft 1 word astatine Harrow Art School because, arsenic a working-class teen, she had nary thought however to marque a surviving from art. She was candid with biographers and interviewers that her real, worldly acquisition came from relationships, usually with men for whom she was the applicable back-up, paying the bills oregon totting up the till receipts.

Westwood handcrafted the rips successful her punk gear; erstwhile she was appointed OBE successful 1992, she went to Buckingham Palace successful a finely tailored suit, but wore nary knickers beneath. She ne'er had immoderate volition of becoming an planetary decorator – moving her ain marketplace stall would person been capable – fto unsocial Dame Vivienne Westwood, eminence and brand, “dowager empress of the west”, arsenic she was known successful China. It had each been 1 pragmatic effect aft different to accidental and exigency.

Vivienne Westwood with the exemplary  Sara Stockbridge astatine  the British Fashion Awards successful  1990, astatine  the Royal Albert Hall, London, wherever  she was named decorator  of the year.
Vivienne Westwood with the exemplary Sara Stockbridge astatine the British Fashion Awards successful 1990, astatine the Royal Albert Hall, London, wherever she was named decorator of the year. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex

She was calved successful Tintwistle, conscionable extracurricular the mill municipality of Glossop, Derbyshire, the girl of Dora (nee Ball) and Gordon Swire. Her begetter was a mill worker; her parent had been successful the mills and appreciated a magnitude of bully wool worsted – though everything was successful abbreviated proviso during Viv’s childhood. Her acquisition astatine Glossop grammar schoolhouse ended successful 1958, erstwhile the Swires saved capable to bargain a small station bureau concern successful London, and moved to Harrow. Viv soon near her creation schoolhouse course, frustrated that it prohibited sewing. Her ain benignant was beehive hair, pencil skirts, stiletto heels – each the music-allied experiments of London’s archetypal teen generation.

She became a superior schoolhouse teacher and successful 1962 joined Derek Westwood, a toolmaker with ambitions, which helium achieved, to beryllium an hose pilot. Their son, Ben, was calved successful 1963, but the mates separated soon after, divorcing successful 1966. She returned to her parents, and began to marque jewellery for a stall successful Portobello Road.

Among those sharing a rented level with her brother, Gordon, was a charismatic creation student, Malcolm McLaren. Westwood and her lad moved in, too, and she became McLaren’s archetypal girlfriend, soon large with their son, Joe, who was calved successful 1967 – but only, Westwood claimed, aft she had decided against an termination and spent the wealth connected a cashmere sweater instead.

McLaren, acold into situationist authorities of depletion and display, fizzed astir the leftist landscape, trying to scope Paris successful revolutionary 1968, portion Westwood and her sons decamped to unrecorded successful her parents’ vacation caravan. When McLaren wooed her back, they moved to a small, worn level successful an creation deco artifact disconnected Clapham Common, to a beingness neither romanticist nor domestic.

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren successful  1977. The apparel  sold by their store  Seditionaries connected  Kings Road, Chelsea, were attributed to some  of them.
Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren successful 1977. The apparel sold by their store Seditionaries connected Kings Road, Chelsea, were attributed to some of them. Photograph: Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Their archetypal collaboration was flogging vintage stone records, arsenic McLaren promoted music, and erstwhile they were near with unsold T-shirts from a concert, Westwood reworked and embellished them arsenic fashion. Her archetypal ideas astir quality came retired of an instinctive knowing of the early, brief, intersexual entreaty nine traditionally permitted to working-class women. As she told her biographer Ian Kelly, they were “people who’ve had a harder beingness and much melodramatic acquisition … the mediocre person the presumption … of having much experience”. Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel had had a akin revelation astir 1918.

In the precocious 60s, No 430 Kings Road, located conscionable wherever Chelsea swerves towards Fulham, had been the cartoony Mr Freedom boutique, earlier being fto to a fading jeans store, wherever McLaren began selling his records astatine the back. In 1971 Westwood borrowed £100 from her parent and rented the full place, contracting a concern with McLaren, and moving up banal connected her instrumentality to supplement the bought-in goods. They called it Let It Rock, changed wrong a twelvemonth to Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, selling biker jackets and Westwood’s pugnacious T-shirts. These she printed with slogans and lewd images, cheery and straight; she distressed and adorned them, dyed them successful her bath and stitched connected chickenhearted bones boiled cleanable successful the kitchen.

McLaren, who grasped publicity amended than politics, regularly revamped the store according to the zeitgeist. Its adjacent incarnation was arsenic SEX, successful 1974, with Westwood sourcing its banal of rubber fetish-wear done the pages of Exchange & Mart. To beforehand the business, McLaren and Westwood visited New York, wherever helium got hooked connected unsmooth caller music, portion she was picked up by Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd, a sexy eccentric with hairsbreadth similar a bleached loo brush, who pub-talked extremist politics.

Back successful London, McLaren recruited his ain punk band, the Sex Pistols, with Westwood encouraging their originative demolition successful music, gigs and clothes. She did assertion the recognition for immoderate Pistols’ lyrics, but ne'er for punk’s emblematic information pin, though, arsenic a craftworker, she appreciated each the young punks’ improvisations, their achromatic bin bags and loo chains. SEX morphed into Seditionaries during the Pistols’ short, sensational career, making Westwood spokeswoman for punk astatine its gobby tallness successful the metallic jubilee summertime of 1977.

Vivienne Westwood’s Pirates postulation  astatine  Olympia, London, 1981.
Vivienne Westwood’s Pirates postulation astatine Olympia, London, 1981. Photograph: David Corio/Redferns

The shop’s apparel were attributed to some McLaren and Westwood, though some aboriginal furiously disputed ownership of ideas. As Seditionaries drew planetary attention, it needed banal to beryllium manufactured alternatively than sourced and worked over, truthful Westwood recovered a tailor, cutter, illustration machinist, and a fewer specializer hands, and began producing connected a tiny trade scale. McLaren went full-time into euphony management.

Westwood acknowledged McLaren’s aboriginal consciousness that apparel were turning fantastic and theatrical, and that helium gave her the keywords “romantic” and “pirate”. Further inspiration came from a humanities signifier handbook, Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes, and volumes astir creation history. This homework provided the ground of her Pirates postulation of 1981, saved from being fancy formal by Westwood’s feeling for the erotic imaginable of play detail. It was her archetypal catwalk collection, shown astatine Olympia, and sold successful 430 Kings Road, which again had been revamped melodramatically and renamed Worlds End; successful 1982, Westwood and McLaren tried a 2nd London shop, Nostalgia of Mud. They besides began a protracted divided that near her without cashflow.

Westwood accepted an connection of absorption from the manner PR Carlo D’Amario, and they travelled to Italy to question backing for a statement of her own. He showed Westwood, whose parameters had been the Clapham level and teeny tatty premises successful Camden, however Italy managed its high-tech, craft-based production, yet nary large deals happened, and they lived arsenic renegades, commissioning illustration lines for collections that had impermanent showings successful Paris and Tokyo.

Westwood was discovering that her enactment was known, and admired, much extracurricular Britain than successful it. After the economical turmoil of the 1970s, planetary couture had turned towards ostentation and ready-to-wear towards conservatism, truthful she was a uncommon surviving rebel.

Vivienne Westwood astatine  Buckingham Palace successful  1992 to person   the OBE medal.
Vivienne Westwood astatine Buckingham Palace successful 1992 to person the OBE medal. Photograph: Martin Keene/PA

Nostalgia of Mud closed successful 1984, and, inactive connected the run, she staged a 1985 amusement successful New York, the “mini-crini” postulation – tutu-skirted, body-fitting clothes, with shoes acold madder than the winklepickers she had worn arsenic a teen; Westwood loved platforms, and aboriginal elevated them truthful precocious that the exemplary Naomi Campbell fell disconnected 9in soles connected her catwalk.

By this clip Westwood was broke, but with applicable assistance and a humble indebtedness from household and friends, reopened the shuttered Worlds End, lit by candles aft the energy was chopped off, and easy sold her constricted supplies.

The Harris tweed, tartan and barathea of her postulation of 1987, again sewn successful the flat, recalled Glossop’s stout wool stuffs, respecting contented yet radically cut. Other ideas, specified arsenic an 18th-century-style corset bodice with Rigilene integrative alternatively of whalebones, came from her favourite London museum, the Wallace Collection. Westwood acknowledged the help, too, of her person Gary Ness, who for years advised her connected what to look astatine and for, and what to read.

The Harris tweed and later, acold wilder, Brit collections gave Westwood her second, and permanent, manner identity: London tailoring positive romanticist gowns, with a dissident edge, labelled with her logo, a coronation orb circled by Saturn’s rings.

Her finances remained unsound. With introductions from rag commercialized friends, she moved incrementally into slope loans and concern backing to wage disconnected the debts of Worlds End, and to bargain alternatively than rent her 2nd shop, successful Davies Street, Mayfair. Westwood earned wherever she could, teaching manner astatine the Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna (1989-91), and the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin (from 1993). In the Vienna lecture room, she fell successful emotion with her champion student, Andreas Kronthaler. He moved to London, past into her flat, and they joined successful 1993.

Westward’s 1990s Paris shows attracted Italian backers who realised that her halfway content successful women dressed not arsenic dreams oregon goddesses but arsenic heroes already had a pursuing successful Japan and was gathering different successful China’s past precise caller market. Over time, her agglomerated concern was structured into a planetary institution with office successful Battersea, southbound London. Her ain covering preferences had go a genre successful which different staff, particularly Kronthaler, could work, and with her encouragement, helium showed his archetypal autarkic postulation successful 2016. Although Westwood kept the aged Clapham flat, she and Kronthaler moved successful to a Queen Anne location connected the different broadside of the common.

Vivienne Westwood’s catwalk amusement   astatine  London Fashion Week successful  2017.
Vivienne Westwood’s catwalk amusement astatine London Fashion Week successful 2017. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Westwood’s politics, unstoppably advocated, were anti-establishment, immoderate the existent constitution mightiness be, and settled successful the absorption of Green party-pro-environmentalism, though determination were problems implicit her company’s tax-related good for undervaluing its assets, and its firm taxation wriggles. She ne'er resolved the struggle betwixt her idiosyncratic disapproval of consumerism and fashion’s worsening profligacy. Still, by the clip she was made a dame successful 2010, she had matured into a nationalist institution.

Kronthaler and her sons past her. Joe, who utilized his father’s maternal grandmother’s surname, Corré, founded a lingerie business, Agent Provocateur, inspired by his mother’s outrageous bra and corset designs.