British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood dies aged 81

Representatives say she died surrounded by family in her London home

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Dame Vivienne Westwood, the pioneering, provocative British designer who help spearhead the punk movement of the 1970s, has died aged 81.

Westwood died on Thursday “peacefully, and surrounded by her family in Clapham, south London”, her representatives said.

In a statement, her 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.”

Westwood 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.

The name Westwood became synonymous with style and attitude.

Climate change, pollution and her support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were all fodder for protest T-shirts or banners carried by her models on the runway.

Her former partner, Malcom Maclaren, was the manager of the Sex Pistols and was credited with synthesising the punk movement that sprang out of London in the late 1970s.

After the Sex Pistols split, the two held their first catwalk show in 1981, presenting a “new romantic” look of African-style patterns, buccaneer trousers and sashes.

Westwood, by then in her forties, began to slowly forge her own path in fashion, eventually separating from McLaren in the early 1980s.

Often looking to history, her influential designs have included corsets, Harris Tweed suits and taffeta ball gowns.

Vivienne Westwood appears on the catwalk after her show during the London Men's Fashion Week in 2017. EPA

Her 1985 “Mini-Crini” line introduced a short, puffed skirt and a more fitted silhouette. Her sky-high platform shoes garnered worldwide attention in 1993 when model Naomi Campbell stumbled on the catwalk in a pair.

“My clothes have a story. They have an identity. They have character and a purpose,” Westwood said.

“That's why they become classics. Because they keep on telling a story. They are still telling it.”

The Westwood brand flourished in the 1990s, with fashionistas flocking to her runway shows in Paris, and stores opening around the world selling her clothes, accessories and perfumes.

She met her second husband, Andreas Kronthaler, teaching fashion in Vienna. They married in 1993 and he later became her creative partner.

Westwood used her public profile to champion issues including nuclear disarmament and to protest against antiterrorism laws and government spending policies that affected the poor.

She held a large “climate revolution” banner at the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony in London, and frequently turned her models into catwalk eco-warriors.

“I've always had a political agenda,” Westwood told L'Officiel fashion magazine in 2018.

“I've used fashion to challenge the status quo.”

Updated: December 30, 2022, 4:37 AM