Vivienne Westwood: Activist Extraordinaire

Other | Wednesday 4th July 2018 | Roberta Micallef

Vivienne Westwood’s story is usually narrated in sections; sex pistols, the mini-crini, and the most significant, her activism. Her life can be magically divided in between commas and spaces, each individual section achieving iconic results.

To understand Westwood’s creations, one must venture into the past. At the beginning of her career in 1971, Westwood opened a boutique in London. This would later become a historic hub for punk, fashion and the two combined. The boutique opened in 1971 under the name "Let it Rock", in 1974 it changed to "Sex" and eventually settled on "The World's End" in 1980. Her partner at the time, Malcolm McLaren, managed the controversial band, the Sex Pistols. Westwood, on the other hand, designed their costumes. Together they propelled the punk movement forward through controversial costumes, lyrics and actions.

When the Sex Pistols broke up a few years later, Westwood continued pursuing her brand. She continued on her trajectory with the famous “Pirate Collection” inspired by the French Revolution. Throughout the years Vivienne’s brand has always been a reflection of her views on the past, the present and the future. 

Westwood identifies first and foremost as an activist and an advocate, this evidently leaking into her collections. Over the last few years, Westwood focus has been on protesting fracking in the UK, doing her utmost to get politicians to listen. She even went as far a gifting David Cameron a box of asbestos for christmas. Fracking is “the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas”, causing detrimental effects to the environment. 

Her most iconic protest, however, was her impersonation of Margaret Thatcher on the front cover of Tatler’s April fool’s 1989 edition.

Nowadays Westwood runs the brand with her husband and creative director, Andreas Kronthaler. They advocate a buy less, choose well and make it last mentality. A direct attack on capitalism. 

The notorious Vivienne Westwood continues to make an impact on society, and despite her age, will continue doing so for years to come. 

In 2011 Vivienne Westwood partnered with Cool Earth for the campaign, "No Fun Being Extinct". Westwood contributed £1 million to the company and got big names in fashion, such as Kate Moss and Sadie Frost to support it. The campaign ran for 18 months and aimed to help Cool Earth protect three endangered forests.  

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