Designer, campaigner, British fashion legend and flame-haired agitator, Vivienne Westwood is 70 today! Many many happy returns Dame Vivienne! She was born on April 8th, 1941 and has managed to cram more adventures into her seven decades than most people could achieve given twice that. Her career in fashion started when she changed from primary school teaching to shopkeeping in the ‘70s with her then partner Malcolm McLaren (who died a year ago) opened a retro shop on the Kings Road in London. At this time Vivienne used to take apart the clothes to see how they were made and this sparked her life-long fascination with tailoring and pattern cutting, and unearthed her brilliant design talent.
The shop itself
The various incarnations of her shop were Let It Rock, later changed to Sex, then Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, then Seditionaries and always sold the boldest designs. Vivienne and Malcolm drew inspiration from bikers as well as rubber fetish gear, which was genuinely shocking during the conservative 1970's. During this period, McLaren became manager of the Sex Pistols and styled the band in Westwood's dazzling, aggressive designs - the prototype for punk.
Dame Vivienne still owns the shop, which is now known as World's End, from which she sells her Anglomania label.
Naomi Campbell falling off her super-elevated platforms
In 1981, emboldened by her success in the shop, she launched her first collection as a high fashion designer. Called Pirate, it shocked the fashion establishment with its scruffy, rebellious stylings and set in motion the routine which was to repeat itself for years to come as every season Vivienne unveiled a startling new aesthetic based on theme – usually something unlikely for a high fashion label, such as peasants, vagrants and punky characters. Vivienne Westwood the brand grew from home-grown start up to a global business with the help of her Italian backers and has long since shown at Paris Fashion Week. It is now designed by her third husband and creative partner, Andreas Kronthaler.
Her finest moments are far too numerous to list in full so here we will give you a few of our favourites. Her punk time with her peroxide hair and safety pins galore, including THIS photo posed with Chrissie Hind of The Pretenders and Jordan – her dominatrix-shop assistant at SEX.
The time she collected her OBE from Buckingham Palace before giving the assembled paparazzi a twirl in her full skirted Westwood suit revealing her lack of knickers underneath!
Her advertising campaigns for Westwood Gold Label featuring herself, her husband Andreas and her best friend and muse, Pamela Anderson. The pictures are taken by Juergen Teller and usually feature trailer parks and other forlorn yet kitsch backdrops.
Vivienne has two sons; Joe Corre, is the founder of Agent Provocateur, while her other son, Ben, is a photographer. We join them and everyone who knows her in raising a glass to designer on her birthday. Long Live the Queen of British Fashion!
- Naomi Attwood