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British Fashion Designer and Punk Style Icon Vivienne Westwood Dead at 81

British Fashion Designer and Punk Style Icon Vivienne Westwood Dead at 81

Vivienne Westwood
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LONDON (CelebrityAccess) – British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who brought the punk style to the pages of Vogue, died Thursday (December 29) at her home in London. She was surrounded by her family and passed away peacefully, according to a statement from her company. The cause of death has not been disclosed. She was 81.

The vivacious punk fashion icon, known at times for her orange hair and pale-white complexion, gained the nicknames “the high priestess of punk,” The “Queen of Extreme,” and the “Queen of British Fashion” during her storied career.

The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.

— Vivienne Westwood (@FollowWestwood) December 29, 2022

Born in Derbyshire, England, in 1941 as Vivienne Isabel Swire to a weaver and a shoemaker, she began making clothes for herself as a teenager. She married factory worker Derek Westwood in 1962. She began working as a primary school teacher before she left her husband and met up with Malcolm McLaren in the early 70s and opened up the clothing store Let It Rock in Chelsea with McLaren as her partner.

If he sounds familiar, he should. After renaming the shop Sex, McLaren began managing a small punk rock band made up of Sex shop regulars – the Sex Pistols. They wore McLaren and Westwood’s designs as their music career climbed. Westwood was one of the most imaginative trailblazing designers, and she scored when hiring people to work in her shop. One of those was none other than Chrissie Hynde, who went on to front the band the Pretenders. Upon news of her death, Hynde posted on social media saying the world was “already a less interesting place” with her gone.

Westwood never received formal fashion training and told Marie Clare magazine that she learned to make her clothes in her teens just following patterns.

Known for throwing a cold shoulder to the British “establishment,” she was awarded several times by Queen Elizabeth II. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this was in 1992 when she showed up at Buckingham Palace to receive the Order of the British Empire medal – without underwear and posed for the press outside in poses that made that fact very clear. The Queen didn’t seem to mind as Westwood was invited back in 2006 to receive the highest award possible and the female equivalent of a knighthood – The Dame Commander of the British Empire.

The “rebel WITH a cause” made her way from the shop named SEX to the pages of Vogue magazine – her first catwalk show was in 1981. She went on to not only make punk “mainstream” with the rips, tears, and safety pins, but she was also celebrated for incorporating historical British designs taken from 18th-century paintings and incorporating into her clothing designs. She’s also credited with creating the “mini-crini” combining Victorian crinoline and a tutu), flesh-colored tights, and wearing underwear as outerwear.

She was named designer of the year by the British Fashion Council in 1990 and 1991. She married Andreas Kronthaler, a former student 25 years younger than she was, in 1992. He eventually became the creative director of her company and co-designer. She’s dressed the cast of Sex, and the City made Dita Von Teese’s wedding dress for her marriage to rocker Marilyn Manson and Princess Eugenie.

Tributes have poured in since the news of her death was released.

Boy George, who had known Westwood since the early 1980s, said she was “without question … the undisputed Queen of British fashion.”

Kim Catrall, American Actress: Westwood was a “true genius who never lost her Northern grit.”

Andreas Kronthaler, Husband: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart. We have been working until the end, and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you, darling.”

Bella Hadid, Model: “I will forever be grateful to have been in your orbit, because to me and most, in fashion and humanity, you, Vivienne, were the sun.”

The Vivienne Foundation, a not-for-profit company, founded by the fashion maven, her sons and granddaughter just this year, will launch in 2023. According to her reps, it will “honor, protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design and activism.”

Westwood is survived by her second husband, the Austrian-born designer Kronthaler who had a fashion line under her brand, two sons and a granddaughter. The first, fashion photographer Ben Westwood, was her son with Derek Westwood. The second, Joe Corre — her son with McLaren — co-founded the upscale Agent Provocateur lingerie line.

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