Sunday, April 17, 2011

All hail Queen Viv

When I was back at my parent's house recently, I found 3 fab fashion books I'd bought in 1997 on 3 of my favourite designers - Versace, Alaia and Vivienne Westwood. Flicking through the Vivienne Westwood book reminded me of the true genius she really is.
Vivienne Westwood met Malcolm McLaren in the late 60's, when fashion in the UK was all about Biba, Ossie Clark and moving into hippie chic. Vivienne and Malcolm railed against this hippie style and took over a shop on the trendy Kings Rd called Let it Rock, selling 50's teddy-boy fashions, 2nd hand vinyl & old radios found in flea markets. Charles Saatchi was a customer, who collected old records.
By 1972 the shop had morphed into Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, and they sold outrageous, provocative clothes with slogans such as 'Only anarchists are pretty' and a punk edge designs inspired by fetishists, prostitutes and the burgeoning punk movement. Items such as razor blades, dog collars and toilet chains were incorporated with Scottish tartans. Malcolm was designing for the New York Dolls.
In 1974 the shop was renamed SEX. Their slogan was "rubber wear for the office". John Lydon started hanging out at the store, and Johnny Rotten and The Sex Pistols were born.
In 1976, Malcolm started to manage and dress the Sex Pistols. SEX became The Seditionairies and opened to cult status. The BBC refused to play 'God Save the Queen' and the Pistols seemed a culmination in everything Vivienne & Malcolm stood for - punk, anarchy & freedom of speech.
The Pistols split up in 1978 and Sid Vicous OD-ed on heroin in 1979. Meanwhile, Vivienne's interest moved on from punk and her aesthetic shifted to a more bohemian, gypsy look fused with pirate chic - think Captain Jack Sparrow crossed with Prince. SEX changed to World's End, as it remains today, and Vivienne began studying historical dress, and held her first fashion show in 1981. The seminal 'Pirates' collection was shown in 1981, and embraced the 'New Romantic' movement, all billowing shirts and flowy scarves, a re favourite look of Boy George and bands such as Human League and Spandau Ballet. Malcolm started dressing bands such as Bow Wow Wow and Adam and the Ants.The next few years brought collections Savage, and Buffalo Girls. Buffalo was an 80's British street look that domianted the 1980's, pioneered by designer Ray Petri. Buffalo was symbolized by flight 'bomber' jackets, baggy suits, Rayban Wayfarers, Levis 501s, shoulder pads, bike shorts & scrunched down socks with chunky shoes or combat boots (think Yazz 'The only way is up' and Nick Kamen in the cult Levis ad in the laundrette). This look that inspired by Neneh Cherry in one of my fave songs, 'Buffalo Stance' from 1986.
Buffalo Girls collection, 1982/1983

From 1988 - 1992, Vivienne drew inspiration from 18 & 19 Century French painters such as Boucher, and the beautiful corsetry of the Victorian era and aristocrats. Her attention moved to 'It girls' and the upper-crust as her 'mini crinis', 10 inch heels and amazing corsets were featured in upper crust mag Tatler, and clad the most amazing bodies in fashion - the new breed of models - 'Supermodels' - Linda, Christy, Naomi, Kate, Niki, Karen and co.
Niki Taylor in corset, British Vogue circa 1991
Christy Turlington in 'Statue of Liberty' corset, 1988

Karen Mulder in Boucher print corset shot by Karl Lagerfeld, 1990

Susie Bick in corest, 1991

Corset Collection 1990
Linda Evangelista, Spring Summer Collection 1996
Westwood muse Sara Stockbridge in a mini crini
Vivienne's inspiration from French culture resulted in her Anglomania collection: "On the English side we have tailoring and an easy charm, on the French side that solidarity of design and proportion that comes from never being satisfied because something can always be done to make it better, more refined - hence an elaboration that always stops short of vulgarity - and then that 'je ne sais quoi' that pulls it all together."
Kate Moss as tartan bride, 1993/94 Anglomania collection
In 1992 Vivienne received an OBE, causing a stir by twirling around in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace to reveal that she was 'going commando'. In 2006 Vivienne was made a Dame - she collected this award wearing horns (Lady Gaga you're 5 years too late!). She has been named British Designer of the Year three times.
Flashing at Buckingham Palace collected her OBE, 1992

Collecting her DBE in 2006

Kate single-handedly revived Vivienne's pirate boots from her 1981 collection when wearing her pair from vintage London store Rellik in 1999, starting a frenzy and forcing them to go back into production. You will have seen many a photo of Kate rocking these boots!
Kate has appeared in countless Westwood shows and campaigns, a few here below.

Kate & Vivienne
Westwood stands shoulder to shoulder with Alexander McQueen as a pioneer of that eccentric, outrageous British style and is embraced by many a celeb including artist Tracey Emin, actresses Pamela Anderson, Demi Moore, Christina Hendricks (who is the face of her new jewelery range), Keira Knightley, Sarah Jessica Parker & Helen Bonham Carter, media identity and super chef Nigella Lawson, Burlesque diva Dita Von Teese (who wore an electric violet Westwood wedding dress), singer Gwen Stefani, and models and friends Jerry Hall, Susie Bick, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell (who famously fell on the catwalk wearing vertiginous Westwood heels , the resulting image being beamed around the world for posterity). It is no surprise that her designs are beloved by strong, confident, sexy women - her signature cinched in, corseted dresses showcase a killer cleavage, cinched waist and va va voom curves.
Naomi stacks it, Westwood show 1994

The divine long-time Westwood advocate Helena Bonham Carter
Dita Von Teese's wedding dress, marrying Marilyn Manson in 2005

Carrie Bradshaw's wedding dress

Demi Moore in Westwood shoot, 'Queen of Sheba' dress 1995
Demi Moore in Westwood at the Costme Designers Guild Awards Feb 2011
Nigella in Westwood at 2008 fashion show
Gwen in pink Weswtood at Aviator premiere, 2004

Christina Hendricks, new face of Westwood's new jewellery line, 2011

Tatiana Sorokko and Jerry Hall

Amazing Testino shot - Vogue's Millennium Party 1999 featuring Vivienne holding court with Helena Christensen & then husband Norman Reedus, Fatboy Sim, Tracey Emin, Paul Smith, Blur's Alex James and milliner Stephen Jones among others

Vivienne's collaborations with the outrageous Pamela Anderson are a particular favourite of mine. She met Pammy at a 2009 show and was so taken with the blonde vixen that she put her in her show and an outrageous trailer-trash chic photo soot for her line shot by Juergen Teller. The shoot was inspired by Pammy's then-home, a trailer - and culminated in the Queens of the Stonage dropping around to the trailer for tea. “Yesterday, I was considered soft porn, but today I am art,” says Anderson of her cultural rehabilitation from trash-TV pin-up to high-brow connoisseur. “I have an eclectic group of friends. I like people who can feed your soul,” she continues in her breathy, little-girl voice. And Westwood is one such person." The Observer, 2009 article
Pamela in Westwood shoot ( & also featuring Vivienne & partner Andreas),
shot by Juergen Teller, 2009

Pammy walking for Westwood in 2009
When Pam met Viv
When Pam met Viv - My Polyvore set

In 2004 a major retrospective of Vivienne's work was shown at the V&A. Vivienne and Malcolm's son Joseph launched divine lingerie brand Agent Provocateur in 1994.Met Gala, 2006
Vivienne Westwood is one of my favourite designers. She's rock, she's punk, she's outspoken and her designs are audacious, sexy, original and impeccably made. Long live the Queen!


  1. wow, great read. I never knew about her going commando at Buckingham Palace - Outrageous indeed!

  2. Thanks Bananee. And she's on the news again for dissing NYC! Not good timing given she's just opened her US flagship store - always provocative! Love it.

  3. Just followed on google friend. Viv Westwood is THE designer ..! w

  4. So much awesome info in here Louloublue, you really know your stuff.


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