February 3, 2023

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Vivienne Westwood: Tributes for ‘Queen of British Fashion’ after her death

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Tributes to Dame Vivienne Westwood have poured in following the death of the “undisputed Queen of British fashion”.

She died “peacefully and surrounded by her family” in London, her fashion house said in a statement.

Westwood, 81, made her name with her controversial punk and new wave styles in the 1970s and went on to dress some of the biggest stars in fashion.

Fellow designer Marc Jacobs said he was “heartbroken” and that she “never failed to surprise and to shock”.

Paying tribute to her life and work, he wrote on Instagram: “You did it first. Always. Incredible style with brilliant and meaningful substance.

“I continue to learn from your words, and, all of your extraordinary creations.”

Following the announcement, Westwood’s husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “I will continue with Vivienne in my heart.

“We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with.”

Westwood came to prominence with her androgynous designs, slogan T-shirts and irreverent attitude towards the establishment.

She was also known as a staunch activist and brought causes she cared about, like climate change, to the catwalk.

The designer was made a dame for services to fashion in 2006.

Derbyshire-born Westwood worked as a primary school teacher, before setting up clothing shop Let It Rock on King’s Road in Chelsea with her then partner Malcolm McLaren in the early 1970s.

The business was later renamed Sex and McLaren began managing a punk rock band made up of shop regulars – the Sex Pistols. They shot to fame in 1976 wearing Westwood and McLaren’s designs.

Paying tribute to Westwood, fashion designer and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham said: “I’m so sad to learn of the passing of legendary designer and activist Dame Vivienne Westwood.

“My thoughts are with her family at this incredibly sad time.”

Singer Boy George, who first met Westwood in the early 1980s, called her “great and inspiring” and “without question she is the undisputed Queen of British fashion”.

Actress Kim Catrall described her on Instagram as a “true genius who never lost her northern grit”, sharing a tale of Westwood’s “generosity and kindness” – creating three dresses for the Sex and the City star in three days so could attend premieres of a film, after designs from others were unsuitable.

Supermodel Claudia Schiffer wrote that Westwood’s “unique voice will be irreplaceable and will be missed”, while singer Billy Idol – who found fame on the London punk music scene – tweeted: “RIP it will take me a bit to take this in…”.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, which houses some of her works, described Westwood as a “true revolutionary and rebellious force in fashion”.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wrote on Twitter: “A sad day, Vivienne Westwood was and will remain a towering figure in British fashion.

“Her punk style rewrote the rule book in the 1970s and was widely admired for how she stayed true to her own values throughout her life.”

In 1981, Westwood held her first proper fashion show remembered as the Pirate Collection, and she continued to use British and French history to inspire her.

She married Kronthaler, a former student of hers, 25 years her junior, in 1992. He became creative director of her company and increasingly was responsible for design work in later years.

By the 2000s, Westwood was designing wedding dresses for the likes of model Dita Von Teese, who dressed in her purple gown to marry singer Marilyn Manson, and Princess Eugenie who wore three Westwood designs for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine.

Her designs also featured in the 2008 film version of Sex And The City.

Memorable runway moments include her nine-inch platform shoes, which famously tripped up model Naomi Campbell.

As well as climate change, Westwood became a vocal supporter for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act. In July 2020, she dressed in canary yellow in a giant bird cage warning over an Assange “stitch up”.

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