Dame Vivienne Westwood passed away “peacefully and surrounded by her family” on Thursday at the age of 81 in Clapham, South London, according to a statement from her brand’s Twitter.
Westwood was a legendary leader in womenswear and was considered to have spearheaded the punk movement in fashion in the late 1970s. To her very last day, Westwood served as the head designer of her namesake label.
She was perhaps best known for the re-popularization of the corset in fashion, introducing the piece as a form of outerwear rather than underwear. Many of Westwood’s designs were similarly inspired by historical artifacts: In the 2009 documentary “Why I Love the Wallace,” Westwood said, “All my ideas come from studying the ideas of the past. There’s a link between art and fashion. I couldn’t design a thing if I didn’t look at art.”
After studying at the University of Westminster, Westwood opened her famed Chelsea, London boutique in 1971, later renaming it Sex, with the slogan: “Rubberwear for the office.” However, it was in the 1990s that her name gained traction amongst top members of the industry. The Fall 1993 “Anglomania” collection — arguably her most famous — solidified her designs in the public consciousness.
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Over the course of her career, Westwood also used her platform to raise awareness around a variety of social and environmental issues, often protesting herself. In 2012, the designer launched Climate Revolution, a campaign dedicated to combating climate change and over-consumption.
According to an official announcement from the brand, a new nonprofit dubbed The Vivienne Foundation will launch to “honour, protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design activism” next year. It will focus specifically on four pillars: “Climate Change, Stop War, Defend Human Rights and Protest Capitalism.” Westwood herself was involved in the organization’s development, alongside her sons and grandaughter.
The brand also shared that Westwood considered herself a Taoist, including this quote from her: “There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life; it gives you such a sense of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you can live and therefore ought to be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.”
If one thing’s for certain, it’s that Westwood exceeded her mission of making full use of her time on earth. As her work continues to reach new audiences, she’ll continue to be remembered for her incredible contributions to the world through activism and fashion.
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