British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, who was a key part of bringing punk fashion into the mainstream, has died at 81. No cause was given, but a tweet from her fashion house said she passed “peacefully and surrounded” by her family in Clapham, South London.
Westwood was a sometimes-controversial punk and new wave designer in the 1970s and went on to dress some of the biggest names in fashion. Her androgynous designs, slogan t-shirts and irreverent attitude towards the establishment were her trademark, as was her activism on bringing causes like climate change to the catwalk.
The designer was made a Dame for services to fashion in 2006.
Westwood worked as a primary school teacher before opening the Let It Rock clothing shop on King’s Road in Chelsea with her then partner Malcolm McLaren .
The business was later renamed Sex and in late 1975, when McLaren began managing a punk rock band made shop regulars – the Sex Pistols. They wore Westwood and McLaren’s designs.
She later worked as a costume designer for various TV and film projects. She was also the subject of her own documentary, Westwood.
“The only reason I am in fashion is to destroy the word ‘conformity’,” Westwood said in her 2014 biography. “Nothing is interesting to me unless it’s got that element.”
She is survived by her husband and creative partner, Andreas Kronthaler.