One of the last independent global fashion brands, Vivienne Westwood celebrates 50 years in fashion in 2021. Vivienne continues to use her collections, collaborations and catwalk shows to capture the imagination, and as an energising force to promote awareness and to campaign for positive activism. In 1971 Vivienne began designing in London along with then partner Malcolm McLaren, using their shop at 430 Kings Road to showcase ideas and designs. With their changing vision of fashion came a transformation, not only of the name of the shop but also the décor. In 1976, Westwood and McLaren defined the street culture of Punk with Seditionaries.
By the end of the 70s, Vivienne was already considered a symbol of the British avant-garde, showing her first catwalk presentation for Autumn/Winter 1981 at London’s Olympia. She then turned to traditional tailoring techniques, using British fabrics and 17th and 18th-century art for inspiration.
In 1989 Vivienne met Andreas Kronthaler, later to become her husband and long-time design partner, as well as the brand’s creative director. The V&A’s 2004 Vivienne Westwood retrospective exhibition, to celebrate her 34 years in fashion, was the largest ever devoted to a living British fashion designer. In 2006, her contribution to British fashion was officially recognised when she was appointed Dame of the British Empire by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. In 2007 she was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Fashion at the British Fashion Awards.
Vivienne Westwood is a perennial champion of traditional British textiles and Savile Row tailoring traditions, which have informed and influenced her collections since the 1980s. Over the last 30 years she has created iconic products that are recognised worldwide as a sign of durable quality and style. What’s more, Vivienne Westwood has always partnered with local industries and artisans as well as independent Italian factories. Today, they continue to work with many small, highly skilled independent businesses, such as Harris Tweed and Locharron of Scotland.
The brand has always striven to make collections with greater care, keeping heritage, craftsmanship and tradition alive through innovative design, and promoting arts and culture. Vivienne has also personally been at the forefront of raising awareness around the environmental impact of overconsumption and is a long-time campaigner on the impact of climate change, mobilising people around its effects on them and the planet, urging people to ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’.
Vivienne Westwood is also committed to sourcing raw materials with the least possible social and environmental impact: embracing developments in sustainable fibres and fabrics as well as low-impact dyeing and processing; using zero-waste patterncutting techniques where possible; and designing products of the highest quality so that they endure. They strives to make quality products that respect people and the planet with every design decision by focusing on four key areas: craft, heritage, materials and processing, and reimagining waste.