Au Revior, Vivienne Westwood


Models feature Vivienne Westwood’s collection on the runway – Courtesy of Christian Leitner

Vivienne Westwood, one of the most iconic and influential British fashion designers of the 20th century, passed away on December 29th, 2022, at the age of 81. Known for her punk-inspired designs, Westwood’s work was a revolutionary force in the fashion industry, pushing boundaries and challenging traditional norms of beauty and femininity. Throughout her career, she remained true to her own unique style, and her legacy continues to inspire thousands of designers and fashion enthusiasts even after her death. This article will dive deeper into Westwood’s contributions to the world of fashion, and what her death means for the future of the fashion world and Westwood’s own designer brand.

In the past, Westwood was often known for her bold and controversial designs for that particular time period. Some of her most notable contributions began with the iconic “Punk Era,” featuring studded leather, ripped denim, and safety pins. Aside from the facetious rebellious look it provided its wearers, it was often seen as a direct response to conservative 1970’s fashion for women. One example of this was when Westwood was entrusted with dressing the famous rock band “Sex Pistols,” and eventually outfitted the band with what was seen as provocative clothing; mostly consisting of signs such as an upside down crucified Jesus or distressed clothing featuring Queen Elizabeth II on the front. Another one of Westwood’s most noteworthy fashion eras included the Harris Tweed Look, from the autumn/winter of 1985 and 1986. This was seen as an attribute to the traditional Scottish tweed, and Westwood was praised for her ability to make something previously outdated to something trendy once again. Continuing on with this pattern, Westwood’s primary collection in the 1990’s was the Anglomania look– most known as a tribute to British culture and history. It featured pinstripe suits, bowler hats, and Union Jack-print dresses, which encompassed elements of traditional British tailoring. This collection was eventually rebirthed in 2018-2019, and featured unique accessories such as shoes embroidered with plaid and shiny stars. Of course, Westwood’s trademark orb design is her most well-known and sought after, making every piece she designs stand out with its uniqueness.

Considering how Westwood’s designs were praised for their ability to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo, the public was devastated about the loss of this influential and innovative designer. Senior fashion and digital editor in Milan, Giorgia Cantarini, narrates a personal experience she had with Westwood and her shock at hearing of her death: “I am still in shock, Vivienne Westwood passed away today at the age of 81. I met… her at the beginning of my career, I was intimidated as she was my only and forever icon… Dame Vivienne Westwood was a true legend! I will never forget a true original.” The impact of Westwood’s death can be seen around the world. Many might also be questioning the future of the brand now that its founder is no longer in control. Fortunately, brands such as Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen have proved that a designer’s strong and unique vision can thrive even after their death. 

In terms of Westwood’s brand, her legacy is extremely secure in the hands of her codesigner and husband, Andreas Kronthaler. They worked closely together for many years, and their common vision for the brand and love for design, art history, and influencing the next generation, has resulted in a coming together of minds. Kronthaler even took over the position of creative director and adopted the role of walking down the catwalk at the debut of Westwood’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection– indicating that this transition of power was something both visionaries had seen in hindsight. There is hope that the Westwood spirit will continue thanks to Kronthaler’s creative vision because of Westwood’s distinct training of her radical and rebellious style. 

The passing of Vivienne Westwood marks the end of her unique style, but the beginning of a new era for the brand. Her designs, often eclectic and controversial, frequently pushed boundaries and challenged traditional perspectives of beauty and femininity. Westwood committed to her own distinct vision, and her legacy has inspired countless fashion designers throughout the years.  Her usage of the orb emblem contributed to the development of a strong distinctive brand identity that will continue to define her legacy. Although Westwood’s passing is a huge loss, her empire  will endure thanks to her creations and the countless others she inspired.