Westwood, Vivienne

(1941- )
   Born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire, England, her father was a cobbler and her mother worked in the local cotton mill. Westwood studied art for one term at the Harrow School of Art. Upon graduating from a teacher training college, she became a North London primary school teacher. She married Derek Westwood in 1962 and had a son. After only three years of marriage, she met impresario Malcolm McClaren, with whom she had another son and began a creative partnership. In 1971, Westwood left teaching and started designing clothes for the store McClaren named Let It Rock, featuring anti-establishment clothing with shock value inspired by the music band the Seditionar-ies. Though the punk movement actually began in the Lower East Side of New York City in the late 1960s, Westwood and McClaren epitomized punk style both in their store and in the clothes designed by Westwood for the British band the Sex Pistols, whom McClaren managed. The look consisted of bondage gear, safety pins, bicycle and lavatory chains dangling on clothing, and razor blades and spiked dog collars worn as jewelry. Mohawk or crazy colored hair and makeup were also part of the look. In 1981, Westwood staged her first runway collection in London known as the Pirate Collection, ushering in a new romantic movement. This was followed in 1982 by the Savage Collection, which pioneered asymmetric layering, followed by the Buffalo Girls Collection, inspired by Latin American Indians. Subsequent collections would combine street style with tongue-in-cheek historical references, all done with an irreverent flair, until her split with McClaren in 1985.
   Although Westwood's post-McClaren collections still challenged bourgeois standards, they were steeped in historical, political, and literary tradition. Her collections were more refined, even glamorous, and offered better fabrics and quality. Westwood's 1993-1994 collection Anglomania was a huge success and prompted her to diversify her business. She created a ready-to-wear line called Red, a couture label under the name Gold Label, and in 1998, a secondary line called Anglomania. In 1996, she designed the costumes for the Three Penny Opera in Vienna and launched her menswear line. By the late 1990s, Westwood had signed a partnership deal with Itochu and opened a showroom and a store in New York's SoHo. However, after the attack on September 11, 2001, business suffered and the store closed.
   Westwood has taught fashion since 1993 at Berliner Hochschul-eder Kunts. Her awards include an Order of the British Empire Award (1992), the British Designer of the Year Award (twice) from the British Fashion Council, and, in 2004-2005, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the National Gallery, Australia, held a major retrospective of her work. In 2006, Westwood was named a dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
   In that same year, she also signed a manufacturing agreement and revealed plans to reenter the U.S. market with her Anglomania line. In addition to clothing, Westwood launched a series of tea sets with the Wedgewood pottery company in 2003 and, in 2005, created a jewelry line featuring gold safety pins with a diamond dangle. In 2005, Westwood announced plans to open retail stores in China. She also partnered with the British civil rights group Liberty to launch a limited line of T-shirts and childrenswear with the message "I am not a terrorist, please don't arrest me." Her collection is sold in twenty-two countries throughout the world and in her two flagship stores in London and Tokyo. Her empire consists of men's and women's clothing and shoes, bags, jewelry, and her fragrance, Boudoir. She remarried in 1989 to Andreas Kronthaler and is still known as the "High Priestess of Punk."

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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