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January 30, 2023

Dame Vivienne Westwood Has Died at 81

Dame Vivienne Westwood Has Died at 81

An exhibition in Westwood’s honor opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2002, and her punk roots were again celebrated in 2013 at the Costume Institute’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture” show.  One of the exhibitions seven galleries was inspired by her Seditionaries shop. In 2004, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London held a retrospective, and Westwood won British Fashion Designer of the Year in 1990, 1991, and 2006 from the British Fashion Council. In 2007, she was handed the BFC Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fashion Design, and in 2018, the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, for her constant climate-change activism. 

“Dame Vivienne Westwood was an extraordinary talent: an innovative and influential designer, and an iconoclast who pursued every belief and passion with a rare fervor,” says Anna Wintour, chief content officer of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue. “One of my very favorite Costume Institute shows, Anglomania, celebrated British fashion, but really it was a celebration of  Vivienne. She was at the heart of it all, the designer that every single designer wanted to meet at the gala. She was a provocateur, and one with a deep understanding of what made her homeland tick: that peculiarly British blend of history, class, sex, Romanticism, and tradition, which she worked up into the most magical and imaginative of clothes.”

Westwood’s runway has long been her political platform. T-shirts in her spring 2006 collection read “I Am Not A Terrorist, Please Don’t Arrest Me,” while models in her fall 2008 show carried signs demanding fair legal trials for Guantánamo Bay prisoners. A banner in the spring 2013 show called for a climate revolution. Other times she has shown support for U.S. whistleblower Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as political parties, environmental charities including Cool Earth and Greenpeace, and the Occupy demonstrations in 2011.

“We’re trying to tell everyone the end of the world is here,” Westwood told Women’s Wear Daily backstage at her spring 2016 show, where placards were penned with the slogans “fracking is a crime” and “austerity is a crime.” In 2014, Westwood shaved off her rooster-red hair to raise awareness for climate change.

Westwood’s namesake label carried couture, bridal, and men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections. She met Austrian fashion student Andreas Kronthaler in the late 1980s when teaching at the Vienna School of Applied Art and they married in 1992. They partnered under the Westwood label, but in 2016 he became creative director of the brand, with the mainline being renamed Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood.

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