Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vivienne Westwood

The Grandmother of Punk.

Vivienne Westwood was born in England (Cheshire) in 1941. I imagine growing up there and then, with all the post-war shortages and upheaval had a bit to do with her attitude, once she got rolling.

She studied art at several schools, rattling around between colleges, and actually taught grade school for a while (good grief), before, in 1971, she was able to quit teaching and sell her designs exclusively in a shop owned by her husband (boyfriend? Were they ever married?), Malcom McLaren.

It was called SEX, among other things. You may have heard of it. It was pretty famous. McLaren's name may sound vaguely familiar, too. Because, well, he managed this band.

The Sex Pistols. Yeah. Those guys.

Westwood dressed the Sex Pistols for their first gig, with the ripped clothes and safety pins, and all that.

In 1975, Westwood and McLaren were fined for indecent exposure, and fame was theirs.

After some reshuffling at the shop (it changed names quite a few times) and I imagine some time spent learning the more formal fashion biz (you know, where you have clothes manufactured and name lines of it and do marketing and all that), Westwood had her first show, the Pirate collection show, in March of 1981.

Arrrr. (Please note the girls rocking out to their fancy awesome headphones.)

After that, well, Westwood's collections pretty much set the standard for street wear. All those years in the eighties, we wore ripped jeans and plaid? That's 'cause Westwood put them in her collections. Another hugehugehuge impact she had?

In 1987 she began selling corsets as outerwear. According to people who know (the V&A Museum), she was the first person to do that.

After decades of defining the youth movement, in 2006 she was given the Order of the British Empire (knighted, or in her case, damed). I wonder if you're less punk if you're recognized by the establishment you've railed against. Anyway, right after the ceremony, she told Prince Charles she wasn't wearing any knickers.

So I guess she's not TOO establishment.

Westwood is also known for designing shoes, mostly platform.

The blue platforms are particularly famous because Naomi Campbell fell while wearing them on the catwalk in, I believe, '93. I remember when it happened. I'm old.

What always amazes me about Westwood is that only fashion geeks have heard of her. She's the one who made all the clothes we wear cool, has pretty much dictated street fashion for forty years, but if you challenged someone to name a fashion designer, most everyday people would never think of her.

Here's some more of her work. Enjoy.


Emily said...

Jeepers. Some character!

TinkingBell said...

You forgot the wonderful knitted 'nude' suit for the whole family - with appropriate pubic hair and nipples - another Viv Westwood staple - I've loved her stuff since the 70s

Jess said...

LOVE this. Love Vivienne. Being into both punk and fancy dresses, I really love her.

I do remember hearing her name involved in fashion stuff, and then hearing the Sex Pistols story and wondering if it was the same Westwood. Of course it was!

Louiz said...

I love Vivienne Westwood. The V&A did an exhibition of her work... probably 8 yrs ago (doesn't seem that long ago, but it must have been about then) which was stunning. Huge fan of her work. Might not wear it all, but I love it.

Eleanor said...

'Only fashion geeks have heard of her' REALLY?! I don't know if that's the Atlantic dividing us, but perhaps more British people are aware of her, than Americans - I know she's the first person I'd name if asked to name a fashion designer.

Love that last outfit - at last, something that disguises my hips ROFL!

Donna Lee said...

I recognize some of those fashion shoot photos from old issues of Vogue. There was a time when I didn't miss an issue. When I cared to be 'fashionable', I used to read the mag from cover to cover and then try to imitate some of the things as best as I could on my less than Vogue budget. Vivienne Westwood was a staple in their magazine for a long time. (if you actually READ the print instead of looking at the photos)

Carrie S. said...

Some of it's a little over the top for me, but I'm deeply in love with that grey skirt suit.

My captcha word is "syleupty", which really seems like it should mean something...

2paw said...

Spooky, I just referenced Westwood in my blog the other day. I've never thought I was a fashion geek, but maybe I am because I knew a lot of the things you wrote about. I love her devil may care attitude to fashion, but maybe not the no pants!!

Roxie said...

Love it. Thanks. I've heard the name, but now I have more sense of the person who wears it.

And being who she is, what else COULD she say to Charlie?

David Austin Smith said...

As a HUGE fan of Adam Ant, I am familiar with the New Romantic Movement and everything Vivienne contributed to the music scene...

(That's me bragging about my tiny fashion knowledge)

ellen in indy said...

er, the model in black is smiling. is that, like, allowed?

and those shoes are cousins to the "goth" ones my dd is wearing as she dresses as abbie from "ncis" for halloween. anyone know where we can get a caf-pow cup besides the one on etsy?

Amy Lane said...

That's awesome. I shall endeavor to remember that name... you're right--I see her work every day!

WikiBobo said...

Call me clothes geek -- VW is awesome.

Liz said...

I love the total exuberance of it -Paula Yates' dress when she married Bob Geldof also springs to mind. It's almost beyond fashion.

When I saw the V&A exhibition several years ago, something I hadn't realised was her commitment to knitwear - there was a lot there, from every decade, not just when knitwear was "in" elsewhere, and it was all just as beautifully designed as the other clothing.

knitabulous said...

I have to agre with Eleanor, I'm in Australia and Vivienne Westwood is very well known. I did live in London during the nineties though, and my best friend's husband got married in one of her waistcoats - which impressed us all a great deal at the time.

She used to have (still has?) a range of really accessible mens silk business ties. My boyfirend took to wearing them after my best mate's wedding to kind of compete with her cool groom.

I love her too - she really is still rocking it, even in her sixites.

But I didn't know it was her with the family nude suits! I've seem images of that so many times, always assumed it was just plain weird - now I know it's Vivienne Westwood weird.

I always love your fashion posts.