Punk Icon Passes Away

30 December 2022 | 9:25 am | Mary Varvaris

"You were the reason i left the house with the confidence to look the way i did."

(Pic by Robin Laurance)

British fashion designer, activist and punk icon Vivienne Westwood has passed away aged 81.

"Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London," read her official Twitter page. "The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better."

Westwood helped shape the British punk movement in the 70s. She and Malcolm McLaren ran the clothing boutique SEX, and McLaren went on to manage the Sex Pistols. Punk music, to Westwood, "changed the way people looked. I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way," she said.

She went on to expand across Britain while her merchandise did the same: Westwood's clothing promoted political causes such as the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and showed support for climate change and civil rights groups.

Viv Albertine, from the band The Slits, wrote about Westwood in her 2014 memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys"Vivienne and Malcolm use clothes to shock, irritate and provoke a reaction but also to inspire change. Mohair jumpers, knitted on big needles, so loosely that you can see all the way through them, T-shirts slashed and written on by hand, seams and labels on the outside, showing the construction of the piece; these attitudes are reflected in the music we make. It's OK to not be perfect, to show the workings of your life and your mind in your songs and your clothes."

Tributes have begun pouring for Westwood, including from the Tissues hitmaker, Yungblud. He said on Twitter, "you gave me the courage to express myself. you were the reason i left the house with the confidence to look the way i did. heartbroken. thankyou for everythin, viv. RIP."

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson noted that Westwood was "a hero of mine," while Sleaford Mods paid tribute to Westwood and soccer icon Pele

The Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones wrote that the fashion icon was "One of the most colourful people I’ve ever met, including at a striking junior doctors’ picket line, where she rallied the troops in support of her beloved NHS. She walked the walk and talked the talk."

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also shared his appreciation for Westwood, writing "Vivienne Westwood was a creative icon who helped cement the UK at the very forefront of modern fashion. My thoughts are with her family and friends."