Vivienne Westwood brief history

The Brand Council case studies: Vivienne Westwood

brandrepublic.com, 09 December 2002, 08:00AM

Originally published in ‘Cool BrandLeaders’ August 2002. The book reviews the UK’s strongest cool brands as judged by the independent Brand Council Judges.

Case study provided by The Brand Council.

Famous for her innovative, inspiring and quirky designs, Vivienne Westwood has become a true fashion icon. Vivienne Isabel Swire, aka Vivienne Westwood, the daughter of a cobbler and a cotton mill worker was born in Derbyshire in 1941. She began designing in 1971 after meeting entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren, best know for managing the Sex Pistols. By this time she was living in London, had been a primary school teacher and had been married and divorced. For over a decade Westwood and McLaren ran a shop called ‘Let It Rock’ on the King’s Road which showcased their radical designs. Westwood rapidly became one of the leading inspirations of punk fashion and was even dubbed the ‘Queen of Punk’.

The shop also sold rock’n’roll records, which was unusual at this time as this kind of music was not broadcast on British radio and hippies were still in fashion. The shop was reinvented several times as Westwood’s ideas evolved. It was renamed and the interior redesigned first as ‘Too Fast To Live,Too Young To Die’ and stocked clothing for Rockers. By 1974 the shop was called ‘Sex’ and emphasized themes of bondage, sadomasochism, and body fetishes. In 1977 it was renamed again ‘Seditionaries’ and then ‘The World’s End’ in the 1980s; a name which it still retains. It now stocks Westwood’s Anglomania collection and accessories, while the building’s backward spinning clock is a renowned tourist attraction.

In the early 1980s,Westwood began showing in Paris; the first British designer to do so since Mary Quant. Collections such as Pirates (1981-82), Savages (1982), Buffalo Girls (1982-83), Punkature (1983), and Witches (1983) helped to create the ‘New Romantic’ look which penetrated throughout popular culture. By the end of the decade, John Fairchild, editor of fashion bible, Women’s Wear Daily, had hailed Vivienne Westwood one of the six best designers in the world in his book ‘Chic Savages.’

The 1990s kicked off with Westwood being named British Fashion Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council, while ITV’s flagship arts programme, ‘The South Bank Show’, aired a one-hour profile of her.

Traditional British fabrics have remained greatly important to Westwood: Harris Tweed, Scottish Tartans, Irish Linens and wools are modified to the designer’s specifications, while specially designed tartans are woven for her, such as her own ‘MacAndreas’ tartan. This was designed for the Anglomania collection and named after Westwood’s designer husband Andreas Kronthaler. This is now displayed together with time-honoured, traditional tartans in the Lochcarron Museum of Tartan in Scotland — an incredible achievement for a designer to be accepted in this way.

Vivienne Westwood has amassed a string of other accolades including the Queen’s Award for Export (1998) in recognition of the company’s growing export market. In 1992, became an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art and, following her listing in the Birthday Honours issued by Buckingham Palace, was presented with an OBE. In addition, Vivienne Westwood is the first designer to be honoured at the Moët & Chandon Fashion Tribute. This prestigious annual event, held in conjunction with the Victoria & Albert Museum, honours leading lights from the world of fashion, whose creativity and vision has had a profound influence on our lifestyle.

The Vivienne Westwood brand now consists of four labels: Vivienne Westwood Gold Label sold in Westwood’s Mayfair store; Red Label which is the diffusion line; Man which, as one would expect, is the male collection and finally Anglomania, the designer’s casualwear line. Vivienne Westwood’s personality is reflected in all the collections and continues to challenge expectations.

© 2002 Superbrands Ltd

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