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.