British designer Vivienne Westwood, known as fashion’s “punk high priestess”, died on Thursday, December 29 at the age of 81.
Westwood eponymous fashion house tweeted that she died “peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, south London”.
The brand also shared the sad news on Instagram, writing, “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book and changing the world for the better. She led an incredible life. Its innovation and impact over the past 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.
Westwood’s decades-long design career began in the 1970s – shortly after he met Malcom McLaren, who would go on to manage the Sex Pistols. Together, Westwood and McLaren opened their famous Sex boutique on London’s King’s Road, which sold provocative fetish-inspired clothing worthy of its name (many of which it has gone through over the years).
“It changed people’s outlook. I was messianic about punk, looking to see if we could put a ray in the system somehow. I realized that there is no subversion without ideas. It’s not enough to want to destroy everything,” Westwood said of his work.
She and McLaren began showing their own collections in the early 1980s, mixing the avant-garde punk references they knew and loved with elements of new romanticism; her now-iconic corsets and the “mini-crini,” a short, sexy version of the Victorian crinoline, exemplify this aesthetic.
And Westwood’s behavior was as subversive as his style; in 1992, she arrived at Buckingham Palace to receive an Order of the British Empire (OBE) from the Queen, twirled for the cameras – and revealed she was going commando in her seemingly conservative skirt suit.
In recent years, Westwood’s draped designs have become favorites of celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Zendaya, Dita Von Teese (who wore a purple house dress when she married Marilyn Manson in 2005) and Princess Eugenie.
A Vivienne Westwood wedding dress was featured in the 2008 film “Sex and the City,” with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw selecting a voluminous strapless gown by the designer for her wedding to Chris Noth’s Mr. Big.
“The only reason I’m trendy is to destroy the word ‘conformity,’” Westwood wrote in his 2014 biography. “Nothing is interesting to me unless there is that element. “