Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer and Punk Icon, Dead at 81

She was known for dressing Sex Pistols

vivienne westwood dead died obituary fashion designer punk music news
Vivienne Westwood, photo via Twitter

    Dame Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer and activist who was an integral figure of Britain’s punk movement in the 1970s, has died. She was 81.

    “Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London,” confirmed a message posted to Westwood’s Twitter. “The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”

    Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire on April 8th, 1941 in Derbyshire, England, and grew up in a working-class family. She briefly attended University of Westminster (then Harrow Art School), where she took a silversmithing course, but left after one term; she would go on to become a primary school teacher making her own jewelry on the side, which she sold on London’s Portobello Road.


    In the mid-1960s, Westwood met artist Malcolm McLaren, who would shortly thereafter become manager of Sex Pistols. Together, Westwood and McLaren managed the store SEX, where they sold the clothing they designed. SEX increased in popularity and became a hub for London punks after Sex Pistols were seen wearing Westwood and McLaren’s designs.

    Westwood is largely credited for helping push the punk movement towards the mainstream, as well as unifying the fashion and music industries. Her eponymous brand became recognizable for its use of elements like bold plaids, voluminous tulle and taffeta, and re-imaginings of traditional Victorian motifs. Westwood was also vocal about numerous causes and movements, notably climate change awareness, and often incorporated her political activism into her designs.

    Westwood has two sons: Ben Westwood, born 1963, and Joseph Corré, born 1967. Talulah Riley portrayed the designer in Pistol, Danny Boyle’s limited Hulu series about the early years of Sex Pistols.