Vivienne Westwood is a designer whose name is built on a reputation for rebellion and provocation, shock and outrage and yet, such is the cultural impact and influence of her designs, she has now been made a Dame. God save the Queen indeed. Taking a typically unusual route into high fashion, Westwood’s path to design fame began on the humble pavements of London’s Kings Road. Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren set up the shop ‘Let it Rock’ at no. 430 in 1971. This location charted the developing design abilities of the pair with Westwood first adapting and copying vintage 1950’s rocker pieces and then gradually producing their own lines to sell in the shop becoming ‘Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die’ in 1972, ‘SEX’ in 1974 and ‘Seditionaries’ in 1977 and with them moving from 1950’s rocker, to biker, fetishism and the last punk gasp. These incarnations uniquely charted and influenced the short but explosive punk scene of 1970’s as the antithesis to the wafting hippy with the liberal use of studs, rubber, zips, bondage, tartan and shocking printed slogan t-shirts. With the Sex Pistols forming in 1975 and McLaren managing the band, Westwood and McLaren had the perfect marketing vehicle to popularise their punk look. As McLaren said ‘So long as the band has the right look, the music doesn’t matter too much.’
Ever the pioneers, by the 1980’s, Westwood and McLaren were moving away from Punk and into New Romanticism with a relaunch of the shop, becoming the ‘World’s End’ in 1980. With the new shop came their first collection ‘Pirate’ in 1981 followed by ‘Savages’ in 1982, ‘Buffalo Girls’ in 1982/83 and ‘Punkature’ and finally ‘Witches’ in 1983 which marked the end of the Westwood and McLaren design collaboration. The inspiration behind these early collections have formed the basis for many of the features which epitomise Vivienne Westwood’s later collections and designs through the 1990's and into the 21st century. By looking back to historical dress from the 17th century to the 19th century and into the textiles and styles of different cultures across the world including African prints, Westwood had gained insight and understanding in tailoring, folding and ruching fabric, and colour. She applied these discoveries to aspects of her design work to create signature pieces such as a Vivienne Westwood tartan dress. Her tailored jackets, corset tops and dresses, even a plain Vivienne Westwood black dress, allow women to create a fantastic and edgy silhouette which is anything but ordinary. These are hallmarks of her work which, with a still a decidedly punk edge and attitude, established Westwood as a major force in British fashion and are what makes vintages Vivienne Westwood pieces so appealing today.