The Vivienne Westwood name and her designs are synonymous with two things: sex and the punk movement. She once was quoted as saying, “Fashion is about sex,” but it’s hard to say if this was before or after receiving an OBE (Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace, twirling for the cameras and revealing to the world she was not wearing any knickers.
Westwood played a vital role in the emergence of punk rock in the 1970s and has gone on to become one of the most original and influential designers of our time. Her second husband, Malcolm McLaren, was the manager for the punk group the Sex Pistols and when the group began to wear clothes from Westwood and McLaren’s clothing shop the “punk style” began to gain notoriety. The designs included BDSM fashion, bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle chains, spiked dog collars as well as the outrageous makeup and hair.
The use of more traditional elements of British design, such as tartan fabric, only served to make the overall effect her designs more shocking. Together, Westwood and McLaren revolutionized fashion both in Great Britian and around the world, and the impact is still felt today.
Westwood has twice been named British Designer of the Year and in recent years she has collaborated with the Wedgwood pottery company to create a series of tea sets featuring her designs and with the British civil rights group Liberty and launched exclusive limited design T-shirts and baby wear bearing the slogan I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me.
The first major retrospective of Westwood’s work was shown in 2004-2005 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the National Gallery of Australia. The exhibition is made up of around 145 complete outfits, grouped into the themes which have dominated her work from the early 1970s to the present day.