Fashion industry pays tribute to Dame Vivienne Westwood

Designer Marc Jacobs, the V&A museum and milliner Stephen Jones join in praising the designer known as the 'queen of British fashion'

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Following the news of fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood's death on Thursday, aged 81, tributes have been pouring in for the “queen of British fashion" from across the industry.

Westwood died "peacefully and surrounded by her family" in Clapham, south-west London, according to a statement. Her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart.”

Kronthaler, who is the co-creative director at Westwood’s namesake label, added: "We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with."

The pair married in 1992, and have shared a successful creative partnership across the years. Recently, however, Kronthaler, 56, noticeably began taking on more of the workload.

A natural provocateur, Westwood enjoyed a trailblazing career that began in the early 1970s with Let it Rock, her shop at 430 Kings Road. As the punk movement took off — orchestrated largely by the designer's then-partner Malcolm McLaren — the shop changed its name several times, including to Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die.

From the centre of the punk revolution, Westwood dressed many of its leading figures, including the punk rock band Sex Pistols, with clothes scrawled with deliberately antagonistic slogans. However, she managed to tread the difficult path between provocation and offence with flair, wit and exquisite execution.

As Marc Jacobs, fellow fashion designer and one-time creative director of Louis Vuitton, said, through her work, Westwood "never failed to surprise and to shock".

He said he was "heartbroken" by the news of her death, and paid tribute to her contribution to fashion and the impact of her work, writing on Instagram: "You did it first. Always. Incredible style with brilliant and meaningful substance.”

Milliner Stephen Jones, who collaborated with Westwood on many occasions, wrote, she “changed my life when we first met in 1976”, before citing the scope of her influence on shaping other designers. “Without Vivienne, no Rei [Kawakubo], John [ Galliano], Lee [McQueen] and a hundred others ... You were the Queen."

Scottish fashion designer Pam Hogg, a contemporary of Westwood in the 1980s, wrote: “Devastating news. A phenomenal individual … what an inspiration.”

Former supermodel Helena Christensen paid tribute to the designer by describing her as “a true revolutionary, a true artist, activist, inspiration and icon”, while fellow 1990s supermodel Christy Turlington wrote: "What a life and example to us all."

The V&A museum, which has several of Westwood's designs in its permanent collection, described her as a "true revolutionary and rebellious force in fashion", while i-D Magazine, founded in post-punk 1980s Britain, called Westwood "the queen of punk”.

Billy Idol, who as lead singer of Generation X was a prominent member of the punk movement, tweeted: "RIP it will take me a bit to take this in …"

Actress Gwendoline Christie described Westwood as the “mother of revolution. We were lucky to have you at all.”

A self-confessed iconoclast, Westwood described herself as having an “inbuilt perversity”. In an interview with Jon Savage, for his book England’s Dreaming, she admitted to having “a kind of inbuilt clock which reacts against anything orthodox”.

Merging fashion with politics, Westwood brought topics such a nuclear disarmament, political inaction and climate change to the fore, with clothes emblazoned with slogans such as "We are not disposable" and "Politicians R Criminals."

Fond of thumbing her nose at all convention, she famously arrived at Buckingham Palace in 1992 to collect her OBE and revealed she wasn't wearing any underwear. In 2015, she drove a tank to the constituency home of David Cameron, British prime minister at the time, to protest against fracking.

She was a force of nature and provocative to the end, yet hugely popular. On the Instagram page of her eponymous brand, her team have bid her goodbye with a simple but poignant message: "Vivienne, we love you."

Updated: December 30, 2022, 9:07 AM
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