ICONS: Vivienne Westwood “From the end of punk to fashion designer of the year” (part III)

ICONS: Vivienne Westwood “From the end of punk to fashion designer of the year” (part III)

ICONS: Vivienne Westwood “From the end of punk to fashion designer of the year” (part III)

Discover the individuals that, like Vivienne Westwood, have shaped the Firm’s creative director and designer’s aesthetics, philosophy and work in the series ICONS.


Discouraged by the absorption of punk and the dissolution of the Sex Pistols, Vivienne renamed her store ‘The Worlds End’ in a challenge to space and time. With a new concept, name and decoration, Vivienne presented the F/W Pirates collection in 1981, which gave her some international attention. This collection was followed by three others before ending the complicated and stormy relationship she had with McLaren.

The Pirates collection coincided with the high point of the New Romantic movement. Many see the connection and possible influence of Vivienne’s designs in the aesthetics of the movement. Nonetheless, influenced by glam-rock, post-punk, and by characters from the late ’70s like David Bowie and Marc Bolan (Roxy Music), the New Romantics were extravagant, eclectic and androgynous, and rejected punk’s anti-consumerism and anti-fashion. Bands such as Duran DuranVisage, Spandau Ballet, Boy George, A Block of Seagulls or Ultrabox, started drawing attention to the press and soon became mainstream. At this point the eclectic aesthetic was abandoned and the New Romantics moved on to the straight cut suits and pastel colors creating the iconic 80s look.

Her next step as a designer was to move to Italy to produce her collections with Carlo d’Amario, some sort of “hippie businessman” as described by the designer’s younger son, who would eventually become the CEO of the company. “I certainly do not want to be underground. I want to be where I can get most attention” is quite of a statement. However, her attempts to produce her collections and get investors were truncated when McLaren boycotted her and, very successfully, got her to close no deals, forcing Vivienne to return to London empty-handed.

They were hard years for Vivienne again. The mythical local of 430 Kings Road had remained empty since she had left to try her luck in Italy. It even kept part of the decorations and old collections. With the help of her two sons she went back to sewing and re-opened the store, although at first they could not even pay the electricity bills and lit the store with candles, recalls her son Joseph (by the way, co-founder of Agent Provocateur – family of businessmen, right?).

After the years of hardship came the ’90s, decade in which she would get the deserved recognition. In 1990 she won the prestigious British Designer of the Year, and in 1992 she was named Lady of the English Court by Queen Elizabeth II herself. If international fame had been easier, England was much more reluctant to recognize the career of the designer, one of the most iconic and relevant in the history of fashion.

Over time Vivienne has weaved a distribution network currently composed of 120 points of sale. Given her political convictions and the anti-consumerism she advocates, she is immersed in a campaign to stop the growth of the company. Also, not being able to control the entire process of production and distribuition- and not knowing what the marketing guys are called, as seen in the documentary ‘Vivienne Westwood: Punk. Icon. Activist’ (Lorna Tucker, 2018) – it’s something that doesn’t go with her personality.  

At 77, she remains as irreverent and questioning the status quo as much as always. She is also known for being a political activist, involved in environmental and humanitarian causes. There’s still a lot of punk in Vivienne Westwood. Not otherwise she is known as the lady of punk.

[ Read about Vivienne Westwood’s beginnings and about her participation in the punk movement. ]

Images:  viviennewestwood.com | vam.ac.uk | arttodaymagazine.com