“Our appreciation of every fashion designer today, how the fashion world is today, how we view fashion, is different because of Vivienne Westwood,” milliner Stephen Jones told Another Magazine in 2017. “And that goes for John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela – everybody has been influenced by her.”
Westwood’s talent was often obscured by a love of stunts, almost greater than that of her ex-partner, Sex Pistols promotor Malcolm McLaren. There was her 1989 Tatler magazine cover as a disturbingly convincing Margaret Thatcher, sending Naomi Campbell down the runway in 1993 in platform shoes that toppled the supermodel like a wounded giraffe and that confident twirl outside Buckingham Palace in 1996 that amply revealed her disdain for underwear.
Often these stunts were staged to promote causes, such as her commitment to climate change and nuclear disarmament. Westwood also took the counterintuitive move of encouraging customers to buy fewer clothes.
The protests didn’t get in the way of a push for profits by the independent business, with Westwood designing the cabin uniforms for Virgin Atlantic airlines, collaborating with Burberry in 2018 and more recently Asics sneakers. Westwood also designed the extravagant dress worn by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw for her aborted wedding in the Sex and the City movie.
Since Paris Fashion Week Autumn-Winter 2016, Westwood’s creative partner and husband since 1993, Andreas Kronthaler, designed the runway collections, refining the label’s language of tartans, pirate paraphernalia, corsets, platforms, heart-shaped lapels and meringue silhouettes.
Kronthaler, 56, who met Westwood as a student, also picked up on Westwood’s rebel spirit. The brand was accused of plagiarism in the autumn/winter 2017/18 collection. T-shirts with the slogan “We do big sizes! 2XL 3XL 4XL 5XL!!!! We do very small sizes!!” had been lifted from designers Louise Gray and Rottingdean Bazaar.
A statement appeared on the brand’s social media in 2018 saying: “We are sorry. The use of your graphics on our T-shirt was only ever meant to be a celebration of your work. We got caught up in a last-minute frenzy and did not contact you to ask for your permission. We are truly sorry about this mistake and want to make it up to you.”
The apology only deepened Westwood’s reputation as a responsible rebel.
In a statement, Kronthaler made it clear that he will continue Westwood’s work.
“I will continue with Vivienne in my heart,” Kronthaler said. “We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with.”
Westwood also maintained her contradictions until the end.
“I don’t even like fashion,” she said in an interview with NME in May. “Well, sometimes I do.”
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