Famed fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood has died aged 81. 

Ms Westwood died peacefully surrounded by her family in Clapham, South London, today, her representatives said in a statement.

The 81-year-old’s husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: ‘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.’

Famed fashion designer Dame Vivienne (pictured) died peacefully surrounded by family at her home in Clapham

Famed fashion designer Dame Vivienne (pictured) died peacefully surrounded by family at her home in Clapham

Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections

Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men’s June 2017 collections

Vivienne Westwood: The outspoken icon and rebel who seamlessly blended fashion with activism

By Dinah van Tulleken, Fashion Editor 

‘Capitalism is a crime. It’s the root cause of war, climate change and corruption.’

Not what you expect to hear from one of the most influential fashion designers of all time, but that’s exactly why the industry loved her.

Vivienne Westwood is one of the last independent global fashion companies and it’s a reflection of her values that she never sold to one of the big fashion houses.

Her label has always been about activism as much as clothes – in some senses her products have simply been a vessel for her politics.

The ever-provocative grande dame of British fashion began designing in 1971 with her partner Malcolm McLaren at their shop at 430 King’s Road. Her skill was to create the outrageous out of the traditional. She raided historical trends to create some of the most contemporary looks.

She believed clothes should provoke a reaction. And they did exactly that in 1992 when she went commando to receive her OBE at Buckingham Palace.

‘I wished to show off my outfit by twirling the skirt.

‘It did not occur to me that, as the photographers were practically on their knees, the result would be more glamorous than I expected,’ she breezily explained. 

The pioneering fashion designer made a name for herself on the fashion scene in the 1970s, with her androgynous designs, slogan t-shirts and irreverent attitude towards the establishment. 

Tributes have quickly flooded in for Ms Westwood from heartbroken fans on social media.

A tweet posted from her own account following her death read: ‘The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.’

TV presenter Jonathan Ross was among the people paying tribute to Dame Vivienne Westwood following her death aged 81.

He tweeted: ‘RIP the great Vivienne Westwood. Unique. Brilliant. Uncompromising. Thanks Viv x.’

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan added: ‘A sad day, Vivienne Westwood was and will remain a towering figure in British fashion.

‘Her punk style rewrote the rule book in the 1970s and was widely admired for how she stayed true to her own values throughout her life.’

Singer Billy Idol, who first found fame on the London punk rock music scene, tweeted: ‘RIP it will take me a bit to take this in…’

Spice Girl and fashion designer Victoria Beckham paid tribute to Dame Vivienne Westwood on her Instagram stories.

Sharing a picture of Dame Vivienne, she wrote: ‘I’m so sad to learn of the passing of legendary designer and activist Dame Vivienne Westwood. My thoughts are with her family at this incredibly sad time VB.’

Sex And The City actress Kim Cattrall shared an anecdote about Westwood on Instagram, saying the designer was a ‘true genius who never lost her northern grit’.

Cattrall went to say: ‘Short story – An LA stylist had sent me 3 dresses from various designers for the London/Berlin/NY premiers of a film.

‘The clothes arrived at my London hotel unclean, were unflattering and in need of alteration.

‘I was crest fallen until a mutual friend took me immediately to see Vivienne Westwood atelier and Vivienne made me a new dress in 3 days and 2 others beside for each of the upcoming openings.

‘I’ve never forgotten her generosity and kindness in making that happen and saving the day. RIP Vivienne. You are a legend. Kx.’

American fashion designer Marc Jacobs said he was ‘heartbroken’ at the news of Dame Vivienne Westwood’s death.

In a post on Instagram, he wrote: ‘Heartbroken. You did it first. Always. Incredible style with brilliant and meaningful substance.

‘I continue to learn from your words, and, all of your extraordinary creations. I will always remember the night we bonded over our mutual love for Yves Saint Laurent.

‘You never failed to surprise and to shock. I am grateful for the moments I got to share with you and Andreas.

‘Rest in Peace dear Vivienne, although, somehow peace seems like the wrong word.’

Westwood and Jerry Hall (right) pictured together at the Dorchester Club in London in 2000

Westwood and Jerry Hall (right) pictured together at the Dorchester Club in London in 2000

Westwood pictured at the Paris Fashion Week with Tracey Emin in 2000

Westwood pictured at the Paris Fashion Week with Tracey Emin in 2000

Westwood walks the runway during the Vivienne Westwood show as part of the Paris Fashion Week in March 2014

Westwood walks the runway during the Vivienne Westwood show as part of the Paris Fashion Week in March 2014

Jordan, and Simon Barker, aka Six, modelling bondage gear from the Seditionaries boutique on King's Road, London in 1977

Jordan, and Simon Barker, aka Six, modelling bondage gear from the Seditionaries boutique on King’s Road, London in 1977

Westwood pictured in her SOHO boutique in New York in 1998

Westwood pictured in her SOHO boutique in New York in 1998

He ended his message sending wishes to her husband Andreas, writing: ‘My deepest sympathies to Andreas and your family.’

London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘Vivienne Westwood was a creative icon who helped cement the UK at the very forefront of modern fashion. My thoughts are with her family and friends.’

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) said: ‘We are saddened to learn about the passing of legendary designer Vivienne Westwood. A true revolutionary and rebellious force in fashion.’

As the person who dressed the Sex Pistols, Westwood was synonymous with 1970s punk rock – a rebelliousness that remained the hallmark of an unapologetically political designer who became one of British fashion’s biggest names.

Born in Cheshire in 1941, she is largely accepted as being responsible for bringing punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream with her eccentric creations.

Her designs were regularly worn by high-profile individuals including Dita Von Teese who wore a purple Westwood wedding gown to marry Marilyn Manson, and Princess Eugenie who wore three Westwood designs for various elements of the wedding of William and Kate Middleton.

Dame Vivienne’s designs also featured in the 2008 film adaptation of Sex And The City, starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw.

In addition to her work as a designer, Dame Vivienne was vocal in her support of a number of social and political initiatives including campaigning for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting to avoid being sent to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act. 

Westwood pictured attending the Vivenne Westwood SS18 show during the London Fashion Week in 2017

Westwood pictured attending the Vivenne Westwood SS18 show during the London Fashion Week in 2017

Westwood (C) and her 'Fash Mob' prior to the Vivienne Westwood Red Label show during London Fashion Week in 2015

Westwood (C) and her ‘Fash Mob’ prior to the Vivienne Westwood Red Label show during London Fashion Week in 2015

In July 2020, Dame Vivienne sounded a warning over an Assange ‘stitch-up’ while dressed in canary yellow in a giant bird cage.

Dame Vivienne led a colourful band of protesters chanting ‘Free Julian Assange’ outside the Old Bailey in central London.

Suspended inside the cage, she said: ‘Don’t extradite Assange – it’s a stitch-up.’

The designer’s most infamous reveal was while receiving an OBE at Buckingham Palace in 1992 when she turned for the cameras and her suit skirt went flying, it became evident she left her underwear at home.

She dressed up as then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher for a magazine cover in 1989 and drove a white tank near the country home of a later British leader, David Cameron, to protest against fracking.

“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity’,” Westwood said in her 2014 biography. “Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”

Instantly recognisable with her orange or white hair, Westwood first made a name for herself in punk fashion in 1970s London, dressing the punk rock band that defined the genre.

Together with the Sex Pistols’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, she defied the hippie trends of the time to sell rock’n’roll-inspired clothing.

They moved on to torn outfits adorned with chains as well as latex and fetish pieces that they sold at their shop in London’s King’s Road variously called ‘Let It Rock’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Seditionaries’, among other names.

They used prints of swastikas, naked breasts and, perhaps most well-known, an image of the queen with a safety pin through her lips. Favourite items included sleeveless black T-shirts, studded, with zips, safety pins or bleached chicken bones. 

‘There was no punk before me and Malcolm,” Westwood said in the biography. ‘And the other thing you should know about punk too: it was a total blast.’



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