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Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood helped set the style for modern punk and New Wave music.
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Born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire, England, on April 8, 1941. Considered one of the most unconventional and outspoken fashion designers in the world, Westwood rose to fame in the late 1970s when her early designs helped shape the look of the punk rock movement.
Fashion is about eventually being naked.
Born Vivienne Isabel Swire on April 8, 1941, in the English town of Glossop in Derbyshire. She came from humble beginnings. Her father was a cobbler, while her mother helped the family keep ends meet by working at a local cotton mill.
At the age of 17, Vivienne's family moved to Harrow in the country of Middlesex, where the future fashion icon found work at a local factory and eventually enrolled at a teacher training school.
As Vivienne would later recall, her childhood years were far from London's high life. "I lived in a part of the country that had grown up in the Industrial Revolution," she once said. "I didn't know about art galleries…I'd never seen an art book, never been to the theatre."
By the early 1960s Vivienne's life seemed established. She'd married Derek Westwood, with whom she had son, Ben, and embarked on work as a teacher. Then, however, everything changed. Her first marriage dissolved and she met Malcolm Mclaren, an art student and future manager of the Sex Pistols. With Mclaren, Westwood had a second son, Joseph. Through her new partner, Westwood, who'd begun making jewelry on the side, was introduced to a new world of creative freedom and the power art had on the political landscape. "I latched onto Malcolm as somebody who opened doors for me," Westwood said. "I mean, he seemed to know everything I needed at the time."
In 1971, Mclaren opened a boutique shop at 430 Kings Road in London and started filling it with Westwood's designs. While the name of the shop seemed to be in constant flux—it was changed five times—it proved to be an important fashion center for the punk movement. When Mclaren became manager of the Sex Pistols, it was Westwood's designs that dressed the band and help it carve out its identity.
But as the punk movement faded, Westwood was hardly content to rest on her laurels. She's constantly been ahead of the curve, not just influencing fashion, but often times dictating it. After her run with the Sex Pistols, Westwood went an entirely new direction with her Pirate collection of frilly shirts and other attire. Her styles have also included the mini-crini of the 1980s and the frayed tulle and tweed suit of the 1990s. She's even proved it's perfectly possible to make a subversive statement with underwear. "Vivienne's effect on other designers has been rather like a laxative," English designer Jasper Conran once explained. "Vivienne does, and others follow."
Coupled with Westwood's unconventional style sense, is an outspokenness and daring that demonstrates a certain level of fearlessness about her and her work. In one famous incident she impersonated the Margaret Thatcher on the cover of an British magazine.
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Following the "Swinging London" era of the 1960s, a new group of cultural icons arose. The 1970s saw the emergence of the punk rock movement, built upon the wave of psychedelic and folk rock music introduced in the '60s. In the post-hippie era of the early '70s, rock 'n' roll had a new glam image, pioneered by outrageously dressed rockers like David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Soon other acts followed, most notably young performers like Siouxsie Sioux and groups like T.Rex and The Clash. The music of the '70s inspired fashion as well, in particular designer Vivienne Westwood, whose punk designs for the Sex Pistols helped define the decade's London style. Biography.com looks at the various icons who defined London in the '70s.
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