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Empowered Women: Vivienne Westwood

With London Fashion Week having taken place last week I wanted to focus on a female designer I felt was deserving of the title ‘empowering women.’

After mulling over a few candidates I decided on Vivienne Westwood. I personally have always found Vivienne Westwood interesting, although I don’t particularly always like her pieces I admire her love for all things quirky and her constant love affair with tartan!

Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in the village of Tintwistle, Derbyshire on 8 April 1941. She attended Glossop Grammar School.

Aged 17 in 1958, Vivienne and her family moved to Harrow in London. She studied at the Harrow School of Art, University of Westminster, taking fashion and silversmithing, but she left after one term after struggling to identify how she would make money in the art world. Vivienne Swire went on to work in a factory and studied to become a primary teacher. Although not completely able to disassociate herself completely with the arts, she sold her own jewellery on a stall on Portobello Road.  In 1962, Vivienne Swire met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice, in Harrow. They married on 21 July 1962 and Vivienne made her own wedding dress for the ceremony.

What really propelled Vivienne Westwood’s career was meeting Malcolm McLaren. Together Vivienne and Malcolm opened a boutique at King’s Road. During this period Malcolm became manager of the Sex Pistols, the band consistently wore Vivienne Westwood designs. Vivienne Westwood’s style was perfect for the Sex Pistols as her designs drew inspiration from punk and bikers.

Westwood is widely known as a political activist. Vivienne Westwood stated on television in 2007 that she had transferred her long-standing support for the Labour Party to the Conservative Party, over the issues of civil liberties and human rights. On Easter Sunday 2008, she campaigned in person at the biggest Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstration in ten years.

In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with the British civil rights group Liberty and launched exclusive limited design T-shirts and babywear bearing the slogan “I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me”. She said she was supporting the campaign and defending habeas corpus (the right for the accused to have a trial). The sale of the £50 T-shirts raised funds for the organisation. In June 2013, Westwood dedicated one of her collections to Bradley Manning (a United States Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after releasing the largest set of classified documents ever leaked to the public) and at her fashion show she and all of her models wore large image badges of Manning with the word “TRUTH” under his picture. Vivienne Westwood is also a huge campaigner of climate change, her website http://climaterevolution.co.uk/wp/ keeps fans up to date with her charitable work.

Vivienne Westwoods accolades include an OBE (in 1992), a DBE (2006) and Vivienne has also won the British Designer of the Year twice. Vivienne Westwood is still a leading designer and proved this with her recent LFW contribution. Another reason Vivienne Westwood is an empowering figure is at that at the age of 72 she is still producing world class collections and has always stayed true to her quirky style.

In conclusion, I believe Vivienne Westwood deserves the accolade of an empowering woman for various reasons. I admire her dedication to her style, although not always to everyone’s taste there is no denying that the fabrics and patterns she works with are mesmerising. I also like how she can be quite ‘tongue in cheek’ with her fashion, she isn’t afraid to have fun with her work. Vivienne Westwood is also a very empowering woman as she has been able to use her position of power to help charities…

Last but not least some Vivienne Westwood trivia for you readers. Naomi Campbell, arguably one of the best/fiercest models, famously took a tumble in ridiculously high heels in 1933…a pair of Vivienne Westwood heels nonetheless. Also Vivienne Westwood’s son, Joseph Corre, is founder of the lingerie company Agent Provocateur. 

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