Designer and campaigner Dame Vivienne Westwood dies, aged 81

Designer Dame Vivienne Westwood at The Garden Gate Project in 2015 Photo Dan Thompson

Designer and campaigner Dame Vivienne Westwood has died at the age of 81.

Dame Vivienne, who was largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream, passed away yesterday (December 29).

She came to public notice when she made clothes for the boutique that she and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren ran on King’s Road, which became known as SEX.

Dame Vivienne opened four shops in London and eventually expanded throughout Britain and the world, with many items used to promote her political causes such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, climate change and civil rights groups.

During 2015 she visited Thanet on the political trail to support Queen Charlotte pub landlord Nigel Askew in his general election bid for a seat under the banner of the Reality Party.

Photo Dan Thompson

She visited Ramsgate, opening the organic food focused Evolution Café in King Street which served people during the election campaign and was funded by her son Joe Corré.

Dame Vivienne also visited The Garden Gate Project and Margate Old Town – touring the isle by double decker bus.

Earlier this year she attended the opening of artist Tracey Emin’s ‘A Journey to Death’ exhibition at the Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate.

Photo Dan Thompson

Among those who met Dame Vivienne during the General Election visit was isle artist Dan Thompson, who said: “Spending a day with Vivienne, it was easy to see why she was such a star. She gave everyone she met time, and listened to what they said – lots of people in Thanet will have fond memories of that day.”

Vivienne Westwood was born in the village of Tintwistle, Derbyshire on 8 April 1941, to parents Gordon Swire and Dora Swire.

In 1958, her family moved to Harrow and Vivienne took a jewellery and silversmith course at the University of Westminster, then known as the Harrow Art School, but left after one term. After taking up a job in a factory and studying at a teacher-training college, she became a primary-school teacher. During this period, she created her own jewellery, which she sold at a stall on Portobello Road.

In 1962, she met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory apprentice, in Harrow They married on 21 July 1962; Westwood made her own wedding dress. In 1963, she gave birth to son, Benjamin.

Photo Dan Thompson

Her marriage to Derek ended after she met Malcolm McLaren. The pair moved into Thurleigh Court in Balham, where their son Joseph Corré was born in 1967. Westwood continued to teach until 1971 and also created clothes which McLaren designed. McLaren became manager of the punk band the Sex Pistols, and subsequently the two attracted attention as the band wore Westwood’s and McLaren’s designs. From there Vivienne Westwood’s fashion business grew globally with her clothing worn by customers including celebrities and royals.

Dame Vivienne was a campaigner, particularly for nuclear disarmament, social justice and climate change, and had supported Labour before eventually becoming a Green Party backer in 2015 and then once more supporting Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.

In 1992, Vivienne Westwood was awarded an OBE, and then a DBE in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List for services to fashion.


    • 430 kings road shop,was my neighbour It was punk time. Always had a chat with Vivienne and her customers in local establishments yep.
      think there are some videos on (youtube) Fashion Industry Broadcast renegades also Malcolm McLaren has video there.
      Not suitable for all ages, especially over 20’s

      • It certainly was a crazy time back then! I was hoping to become a full time model then and my boyfriend knew Malcolm who I found a bit creepy but Viv was really lovely. That was just before the Sex Pistols period and she was selling fetish stuff! I was very straight laced but loved her designs from the 80s onwards

    • She was hugely influential and very helpful to young designers from all over the world. A lot of younger designers ended up selling their names like McQueen but she owned hers 100%

  1. My heartfelt condolences to all of Dame Vivienne Westwood family, friends and all that knew her.
    As hundreds and thousands of people along with a global love for all of Vivienne’s brilliant and beautiful self, her magic, her designs and everything that made her so amazing, I celebrate Vivienne’s life and her passion for life. I am so deeply saddened by Vivienne’s passing. She’ll always be a part of our lives as we loved and adored her.
    Dame Vivienne Westwood as you walk with angels we will always remember you for your beautiful self.
    We’ve always loved you and always will.

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