Vivienne Westwood, fashion icon and “godmother of punk”, died on December 29, 2022 at age 81 in London. Her passing signifies the end of an era. While many designers hide behind their clothes, Westwood used fashion as a platform to fight for what she believed in. Westwood’s brand pioneered non-binary fashion, sending men down the runway in pearls, skirts, dresses and heels long before Harry Styles did. Westwood also supported and highlighted drag queens, reflecting the relationship between punk and queerness. In reminiscing on the eccentric and revolutionary life of Dame Vivienne Westwood, we are inspired and moved to be more like her, to live life on the edge of conformity.
10 Life Lessons from Vivienne Westwood
“Buy less, choose well, make it last”: Westwood’s words to live by in regards to fashion echo many of the same arguments made within the sustainable fashion movement today.
“Invest in culture, not in consumption”: Investment in culture forces you to think for yourself, form opinions to make informed decisions and overall to think critically. It’s the most valuable asset available to the youth.
“Don’t suck up…that’s becoming a clone”: Capitalism encourages identical personalities, opinions and experiences through the commodification of personhood. This is ever-apparent in the Tik-Tok trends of “art-girl,” “clean-girl” or “that-girl” which commodify aesthetics to conflate identity with consumption.
“Young people can do great stuff”: “Just because you’re young doesn’t mean that you can't always do something.” Westwood emphasizes the potential of youth to innovate. This is increasingly relevant in our hyper-digital age where the comparison game makes us feel like no accomplishment is great enough. Through innovation, the youth can forge new paths and set new standards, discarding unproductive comparison altogether.
“Reading is also really important. You have to keep on reading and slowly you will become a fit reader, and start to understand the implications of everything.” Reading will never go out of style, and as emphasized by Westwood, and many greats before her, is the greatest tool at our disposal as impressionable youth.
“The world is bankrupt, And the bankruptcy is caused by a rotten financial system, run by a few people to exploit everyone else.” (I’m looking at you Jeff Bezos)
Fight for what you believe in: Westwood fought for nuclear disarmament, animal and human rights, and for the use of renewable energy within the fashion industry. In classic Westwood style, she once rode an army tank up to David Cameron’s door to protest fracking.
Take risks with fashion: Westwood notably introduced corsets, platform shoes, mini-crinis, religious iconography, bondage wear, and tartan into the mainstream with her innovative and bold designs.
Be controversial: “shouting about injustice and making people think even if uncomfortable… I'll always be punk in that sense.”
Go commando: When Westwood received The Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, she controversially “went commando,” resulting in the iconic shot of her twirling for photographers, revealing her bare bottom.
All quotes pulled from the summer 2019 issue of Dazed magazine.