Vivienne Westwood Dies: Punk Fashion Icon Was 81

Vivienne Westwood
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Dame Vivienne Westwood has died. The British fashion designer, known for helping popularize punk fashion, was 81.

Westwood’s death was announced on her Twitter account on Thursday, December 29. The announcement reads: “Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”

The announcement included a quote from the designer that says, “Tao spiritual system. There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life; it gives you such a sense of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you can live and therefore ought to be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.”

Westwood’s designs have been pop culture fixtures since the 1970s. She got her start owning a London boutique called SEX with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Through that connection, the Sex Pistols began wearing her creations, which influenced England’s punk scene and eventually global fashion. Talulah Riley played Westwood in FX on Hulu’s biopic series of the band, Pistol. (Elsewhere on the big and small screens, Sex and the City lovers will recall that Westwood designed Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding dress.)

Westwood was dubbed “the high priestess of punk” and the “Queen of Extreme” in the media and praised for her defiant originality in the fashion world. The designs featured in her 1981 catwalk collection would later influence works from designers like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. And in 1989, famed fashion editor John Fairchild named her one of the 20th century’s six most influential designers alongside Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Christian Lacroix, and Emanuel Ungaro.

She remained a challenger of the norm until her death, extending her boldness into climate activism. She created the site Climate Revolution, which raises awareness about environmental and political issues.

As her website states: “We have always used our collections and catwalk shows as a platform to campaign for a better world. Vivienne herself continues to speak out tirelessly about the effects of climate change and over-consumption, while mobilising international attention around ecological crusading.” Westwood lent her support to “hundreds of causes, NGOs, grassroot charities and campaigns including Amnesty International, War Child and Liberty” in addition to creating Climate Revolution. She also served as an ambassador for Greenpeace and in 2013 designed their official “Save the Arctic” logo.

Westwood is survived by her husband, Andreas Kronthaler, and two sons.