Vivienne Westwood, iconic punk fashion designer, dead at 81

Dame Vivienne Westwood attends the Vivienne Westwood AW20/21 presentation and exhibition during London Fashion Week February 2020 at The Serpentine Gallery on February 13, 2020 in London, England. (
Dame Vivienne Westwood attends the Vivienne Westwood AW 20/21 presentation and exhibition during London Fashion Week February 2020 at The Serpentine Gallery on February 13, 2020 in London, England.Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
  • Dame Vivienne Westwood died on Thursday at 81, her fashion house said in a statement.

  • Reps for the designer said she died "peacefully" and surrounded by family in South London.

  • Westwood was a fashion icon who helped make punk style mainstream.

Dame Vivienne Westwood, the iconic British fashion designer who helped make punk style mainstream, has died, her fashion house said. She was 81.

In a Twitter statement on Thursday, Westwood's reps said the designer died "peacefully and surrounded by her family" in Clapham, South London.

"The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better," the statement said.

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Born as Vivienne Isabel Swire on April 8, 1941, Westwood grew up just outside of Glossop, a town in the county of Derbyshire. She first worked as an elementary school teacher.

Then in the early '70s, she opened an independent clothing store, according to the BBC, which still stands today.

Her business partner at the time went on to manage the Sex Pistols, and the band members were some of the first to wear Westwood's designs. Whereas the band and others like them helped spread the punk lifestyle, Westwood's work had a profound impact on the subculture's aesthetic.

Previously speaking with NPR, Met Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton said of Westwood: "She introduced postmodernism. It was so influential from the mid-70s."

Some of her early punk designs were controversial. As NPR reported, her creations included images of naked figures, bondage detailing, and at times, even offensive imagery like swastikas — something she said she didn't regret in 2009.

She later held her first runway show in 1981, and quickly became known as the "godmother of punk." Her runway looks included corset tops, ruffled plaid, strong catchphrases, and striking animal prints.

Naomi Campbell models a Vivienne Westwood design in 1994.
Naomi Campbell models a Vivienne Westwood design in 1994.Michel Arnaud/Getty Images

Her work was so groundbreaking that she was made a dame for her services to fashion in 2006.

In more recent years, Westwood's work has continued to impact pop culture. Celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo frequently represent the designer, and Gen Z has turned certain Vivienne Westwood pieces into wardrobe staples.

olivia rodrigo arrives at the 2022 grammys
Olivia Rodrigo wears a Vivienne Westwood dress at the GRAMMY Awards on April 3, 2022.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In the statement released on Thursday, Westwood's reps said the fashion icon "continued to do the things she loved," like designing and creating art, "until the last moment."

"She led an amazing life," the statement said. "Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future."

Westwood, who considered herself a Taoist, "always stood for justice and fairness and has been working on a plan to save the world," according to her reps.

Before her death, she called capitalism a "crime," criticized the United Kingdom's treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and urged others to help stop climate change.

Westwood also created The Vivienne Foundation — which honors the designer's work, life, and activism — with her sons and granddaughter in 2022.

Westwood is survived by her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler.

In the statement shared with Insider, he 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."

Read the original article on Insider