Vivienne Westwood - Biography
"Fashion is about sex," said Vivienne Westwood. Well, she would say that, wouldn't she? After all, this is the woman who, upon receiving an OBE at Buckingham Palace, twirled for the cameras and revealed to the world she was not wearing any knickers. There's also the monicker of her first shop, Sex, and the fact that one of her sons owns saucy underwear label Agent Provocateur.
Born Vivienne Swire in the Peak District village of Tintwistle in 1941, as a teenager the British designer moved to Harrow, a suburb of northwest London, where her parents took over the running of a post office. At 21, she married Derek Westwood, a toolmaker, but the marriage did not last. After the break-up, Vivienne fled to her Aunt Ethel's caravan in North Wales, with her son Ben.
Her career in fashion did not take off until she met Malcolm McLaren, later known as the manager of punk band the Sex Pistols, who was studying alongside her brother at Harrow Technical College. Friendship came first, followed by love, and, in 1974, a second child, Joe, now the purveyor of saucy scanties, was born.
It was London which gave Vivienne the boost her creativity needed. After a stint selling her own jewellery in Portobello Market, she and Malcolm opened the infamous Sex boutique at the bottom end of the Kings Road where her provocative designs were sold. Then came punk. Vivienne's clothes were perfect for the youth trend: bondage trousers, slashed shirts and provocative God Save The Queen T-shirts. The monarch may not have loved it, but London was intoxicated.
From notoriety eventually came respectability, although her catwalk shows never failed to garner front page headlines. Remember Naomi Campbell coming a cropper in her electric blue platform heels? That was Viv. The return of cleavage flaunting? Take a bow, Mrs W. In the Nineties she was elected one of the top five designers of the last century, alongside such luminaries as Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel and was named British Designer of the Year two years running, in 1990 and 1991.
In 1992, she married Andreas Kronthaler, a fashion student a quarter of a century younger than her, whom she met when she was tutoring fashion at Vienna University of Applied Arts. The two now share a home in Battersea, southwest London.