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Dame Vivienne Westwood Has Died at 81

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After meeting then-art student Malcolm McLaren, Westwood gave birth to her second son Joseph Corré in 1967, and her two sons grew up together in South London, where she taught in a primary school. “I was a very good teacher,” Westwood told the Guardian in 2007. “Except I always liked the kids that everyone else thought were a pain in the arse. The little rebels.”

In 1971, Westwood and McLaren opened a boutique (for a few hours every evening) on the King’s Road called Let It Rock, selling 1950s memorabilia and dandy suits. There, they made teddy boy trousers, drape coats, and mohair sweaters, before going on to costume the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols—around the same time, they began selling slogan T-shirts with colorful words styled from chicken bones, trousers with zips from front to back, and trampled-on tie-dye tops.

The shop notched up several new names over the years, from Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die in 1972, Sex in 1974 (with the introduction of fetishist rubber dresses, nipple clamps, and spike shoes), Seditionaries in 1976, and finally World’s End in 1979. “I got this reputation for being a bit of a sex maniac and things like that, and I’m not,” Westwood told the Guardian. “I love that Jean Shrimpton quote: ‘Sex has never been high on my list of priorities.’” Westwood and McLaren designed the iconic 1981 New Romantic-inspired “Pirate” collection together under the World’s End label before parting ways, with the frill-sleeved blouses, stiff felt hats, and jacquard pants covering British Vogue the same year.

“It changed the way people looked,” said Westwood of some of her landmark collections, including “Buffalo” and “Nostalgia of Mud” in 1982, the creation of the mini-crini in 1985, and “Anglomania” in 1993. “I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way,” she said. “I realized there was no subversion without ideas. It’s not enough to want to destroy everything.”

Westwood in her studio in 1983. Photo: Getty Images


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