Vivienne’s Legacy: How Westwood Merged Politics and Fashion

Westwood changed the course of fashion history by making a pathway for women creatives to thrive in the fashion space, speaking up about topics that affected them. Before her era, the ’50s and ’60s were filled with progress from race relations to the hippie movement, and you could see this through every art form including fashion. 

Before her passing, acclaimed fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood had another fashion resurgence in 2020 with her iconic archival pieces trending on TikTok. But the hype surrounding Westwood’s name did not start during the Covid-19 era but was predated all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s.

Early Life

In 1971 Westwood began designing clothes and opened a boutique in London called Let it Rock. Over time, her style developed and she started changing her pieces into what we know today as “punk” fashion.  Westwood revolutionized this concept by testing every political boundary through her designs and interviews. 

Harper’s Bazaar profiled Westwood when she says, “I was about 36 when punk happened and I was upset about what was going on in the world.” She continues, “It was the hippies who taught my generation about politics, and that’s what I cared about—the world being so corrupt and mismanaged, people suffering, wars, all these terrible things.” 

Westwood worked from then on to create a legacy where her work could not only set a precedent but created discourse to this day about what true revolutionary artwork is. Not only by showcasing collections that feature climate change such as the 2019 Homo Loquax show, but showcasing women’s sexuality in a positive light in the Spring 1994 Cafe Society show as well.

Westwood’s Commitment to Activism

Vivienne Westwood created a legacy for herself not only through fashion, but in her everyday life and devotion to activism. In 1992, her first visit to Buckingham Palace caused controversy due to her lack of undergarments during her ceremony of being titled “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” In 2006, Westwood was named a Dame — the title given to a woman equivalent to the rank of a knight — from the Palace.

Photo from Los Angeles Times

In line with these sentiments is her activism work separate from fashion. Westwood is not only a Trustee of human rights organization Liberty and Patron of Reprieve, but also serves as an activist for where she discussed ethical consumption of fashion today, stating “I just use fashion as an excuse to talk about politics. Because I’m a fashion designer, it gives me a voice, which is really good.” Westwood lived by this statement and spent the final days of her life fighting for what is right in this world.

Her Final Days

Dame Vivienne Westwood spent her final days with her family reminiscing on the legacy of her career and life as the founder of anything Punk. After 40+ years of a career filled with trials and tribulations, her impact has been credited by most fashion designers today and from her time. 

Photo from Sky News

Thank you Vivienne for your courage in the face of adversity and strength to do the unthinkable.

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