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Vivienne Westwood: the Crossroads of Punk & Fashion

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WVU chapter.


Dame Vivienne Westwood: fashion designer, cultural icon and pioneer of the 70s British punk movement has remained a front-runner and central to the fusion of fashion, culture, music and socio-political sentiments. Clients include Marion Cotillard, Pharrell, Helena Bonham Carter and Jennifer Aniston to only name a few among the many that the brand has dressed. Carrie Bradshaw wore a stunning Vivienne Westwood wedding gown in the first Sex and the City film. You may have even seen tweets from “high fashion twitter” on your Twitter feed fawning over vintage Vivienne Westwood corsets, proving that despite being involved in fashion for almost fifty years, Dame Vivienne Westwood holds her own as a household name in both fashion and the punk movement.

In 1971, Westwood alongside her then partner Malcolm McLaren opened their first store at the renowned King’s Road in west London. The store underwent multiple name changes but quickly became notorious for the provocative nature of the clothing to the point where the store violated obscenity laws, the response to which was to only produce more explicit and obscene clothing. Vivienne drew inspiration from the budding music scenes in New York and London, what would later be known as ‘Punk Rock’, and designed and produced clothing with leather, zips and straps that complimented the music, style and ethos of this growing movement. Westwood’s clothing and aesthetic was popularized by the Sex Pistols in 1976, who at the time was managed by McLaren. The Sex Pistols was and still is one of the biggest bands to come out of the British punk movement. Their anarchistic expressionism, hard-hitting music style and their overall ‘punk attitude’ coupled with Westwood’s clothing created an entire image for punk music as well as the culture and fashion of punk as we know it today. If it weren’t for Westwood, there still would have been a punk movement musically with the associated attitude and type of expression, but it would not have looked the way it did and does today. 

As the punk movement died down, Vivienne Westwood and her brand were comparatively just getting started. In the post-punk era, Westwood and McLaren produced their first-ever proper runway show displaying their line in the early 80s. Westwood’s ‘Pirate’ collection put her on the map in British fashion and her success and notoriety would only grow as a name in fashion. The brand has experimented with several aesthetics, styles and cuts, all embodying true Westwood and the brand’s history, inspirations and cultural significance. 

Punk, as more than just a style of music but as an attitude and politically driven movement, is reflected Westwood’s brand and her personal efforts. Westwood has always been politically and socially outspoken, from politically controversial t-shirts to accepting high honor awards from Queen Elizabeth and being photographed “knicker-less”. 

With her spiky hair, purple eyebrows and provocative and transformative clothing that backed an entire movement, Westwood transcended the role of fashion designer and creative icon as an emblem of raw political expression and empowerment. 

Edited by Kenzie Dye

Zoë Skvarka is a senior MDS major at WVU. Zoë grew up living overseas, going back and forth between Turkey and Greece. Zoë is passionate about activism, fashion, alternative pop culture and art in all of its forms.
Rachel is a graduate student at WVU majoring in journalism with minors in Appalachian studies, history and political science. In addition to writing for Her Campus, she is also a publicity intern for Arts and Entertainment and a news intern for Univerisity Relations. She is from Princeton, West Virginia and loves her state and its beautiful mountains. She is passionate about many things including dogs, musicals and the Mountaineers.