Vivienne Westwood: Her career in fashion


Ellianna Valkenburg

Vivienne Westwood brought punk-rock fashion into the modern and mainstream world. Creating a legacy that will be recognized and that will live on forever.

Ellianna Valkenburg, Staffer

Born on April 8, 1941, Vivienne Isabel Swire had a life dedicated to bringing punk fashion to the mainstream and modern world. Swire first entered the public eye in the 1970s after making clothes for the boutique she had with Malcolm McLaren, artist and manager of the 70s punk rock band Sex Pistols. The pair’s shared vision and ability to combine fashion and music brought the punk scene to life in the UK.   

Before marrying Derek Westwood in 1962, she was a schoolteacher, and through their divorce in 1965, Vivienne became a self-taught designer. That same year she met Malcome McLaren, and the two opened a shop called Let It Rock, selling vintage secondhand 50s clothes and McLarens rock-and-roll record collection. Vivienne produced clothing based on her ‘out there’ ideas. Customizing T-shirts with rips, anti-establishment slogans, and graphics giving her clothes an overall rebellious feel.    

In 1981, Vivienne and McLaren ended their personal relationship but stayed professional partners for another five years. However, Westwood began to establish her identity as an independent lead designer. She debuted her designs in her spring-summer 1985 “mini-crini” collection, including hooped miniskirts that evoked the style of the early 19th century. This collection marked a turning point in fashion, the ballet burlesque influence drawing attention away from the wide-shouldered look typically seen in the 80s.  

For the next decade, she created collections inspired by classical art pieces, such as The Wallace Collection (an extensive collection of 18th-century decorative arts and paintings Vivienne used as inspiration). Along with one of her more famous collections, the Portrait collection in 1990, designed with depictions of Francois Boucher’s paintings of Daphnis and Chloe.   

Vivienne had many fashion successes throughout her career and will forever be known as the woman who brought punk fashion not only to the UK but to the world. However, some may only recognize the name Vivienne Westwood from the pearl pendant necklaces that went viral in 2020.  

“I love how, during a time when what she did was viewed as scandalous and not allowed, she pushed her ideas into the world and didn’t let many people bring her down” sophomore Carmen Rivera said. 

 Vivienne Westwood pushed the boundaries of basic fashion to create a legacy for herself. Whether you identify her through her work transforming the fashion world or simply as the woman who designed a viral necklace, Vivienne’s legacy will live on forever, even in her death.