Happy Bday Vivienne Westwood! Examining Her Career Highlights
Vivienne Westwood is 75 years old today. Like, a quarter of a century. Still, all we can think is, “Really? That young?” Seriously, this woman has accomplished an insane amount: lauded fashion designer, environmental activist, ultimate queen of punk—and she’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. So, in honor of this milestone, we thought we’d corral some of the best, little-known moments from her life thus far.
Westwood Doesn’t Read
1971 was, arguably, the year it pretty much all began for Westwood. That year, she and her partner Malcolm McLaren opened 430 King’s Road, a boutique clothing store in London stocked with her original designs. When McLaren became the manager for the Sex Pistols, he saw an opportunity for the band and the shop to benefit from each other. Westwood’s clothing was crucial to creating the Pistols’ aesthetic, and the band’s growing popularity boosted business for the designer. It was ultimately this collaboration that popularized the punk movement in the UK, and Westwood’s designs in particular that helped concretize punk fashion. And in case you had any doubts about her loyalty to punk, you can breathe easy knowing that the revered redhead doesn’t watch television, read newspapers, or read magazines. Apparently, when she presented Emma Watson with Elle’s Style Icon award in 2001, Westwood admitted to not knowing who Watson was. That’s what we in America like to call “baller.”
For Awhile, People Assumed She was Nothing More Than a Joke
In the 20 or so years that followed, Westwood’s career blossomed from a boutique rosebud into a colossal haute-couture chrysanthemum. The designer rose to celebrity status, showcasing her first seminal collection in 1981 and opening her first namesake clothing store in 1990. But while she enjoyed plenty of commercial success, her designs were far from universally popular. Their outlandishness often landed her at the butt of many jokes outside of the industry. Thankfully, insensitive reactions like this seemed to only fuel her endlessly creative innovations.
When Awarded an OBE, She was Shadily Going Commando
Despite being treated as a joke by some, Westwood’s achievements have certainly not gone unrecognized. She has won a number of awards, including two for British Designer of the Year. And in 1992, she was invited to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II, where she received the title of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Little did the Queen know: During that ceremony, Westwood wasn’t wearing any knickers.
She Starred in a Surprisingly Soothing PETA Commercial
Since she’s established herself as a fixture in the fashion industry, she’s been constantly using her platform for good. Just the number of different causes she advocates for is impressive. In 2005, for instance, she collaborated with the human rights group Liberty on a line of T-shirts which protested the UK’s recent anti-terror initiatives. In the past few years, she’s made issues like climate change the centerpiece of many of her runway shows. And in 2014, she starred in this fantastic video for PETA. You’re welcome.
A transgressive creative, a pusher of boundaries, and a voice for justice—rarely do we see a person in a position like hers doing so many things so damn right. Happy birthday, Vivienne! You are an inspiration to us all, and a symbol of all that is good and punk in this world.
Images via i-D, tumblr, Dazed, and Marie Claire
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