Vivienne Westwood brand evolution

Vivienne Westwood is undoubtedly one of the most influential british fashion designers in history. She had not only spread punk rock style, but also kept evolving her style exploring various sources of inspiration. Let’s see Vivienne Westwood brand evolution, how she went from self taught designer, to establishing a mainstream fashion brand.

Vivienne Westwood before entering fashion world

Vivienne was born in 1941, in Tintwistle, England. Her parents worked as cobler and weaver. At the beginning she couldn’t believe that someone from the working class can have a successful career in the art world. This is why she dropped out from Harrow University, where she undertook jewellery and silversmith courses. Instead of that Vivienne Westwood became primary school teacher, while still creating her own jewellery in a meantime

Vivienne Westwood in God Save The Queen shirt with Malcolm Mclaren
Vivienne Westwood in God Save The Queen shirt with Malcolm Mclaren; Source : Vogue

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution – early years

Let it Rock

Thanks to her relationship with Malcolm Mclaren (later manager of The Sex Pistols) she was encouraged to design clothes. In 1971 they opened a store named Let it Rock, selling items and clothes from the 1950’s as well as Vivienne’s designs, then in Teddy Boy style.

Too fast to live, too young to die

In 1972 the shop was rebranded, focusing on biker inspired clothing, including zips and leather. It was also renamed Too fast to live, too young to die. During this time Vivienne Westwood started to incorporate provocative prints and texts on her t-shirts.


Vivienne Westwood’s in front of SEX shop
Vivienne Westwood’s in front of SEX shop;
source: magazinehorse

To emphasise their anti establishment philosophy Malcom Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood changed the name of the shop to SEX, focusing on fetish clothing and even more outrageous graphics. The new slogan of the shop was ‘rubberwear for the office’.

Sedentaries and Worlds End

After two years the name of the store was changed again, this time to Sedentaries. With a big success of The Sex Pistols in 1975, who were managed by Malcolm Mclaren, Vivienne designs gained global exposure (she was styling them at the time).

Their shop on 430 Kings Road strengthen its position as a focal point for London’s youth. Media started to call the style of clothing that Vivienne designed as Punk Rock. In the 1980 the shop changed its name one last time to Worlds End, the name still in use today.

Characterics of Punk Rock style produced by Vivienne Westwood

  • Tartan pattern
  •  Leather and latex
  •  Provocative prints and texts 
  •  Revolting against the establishment 
  •  Deconstructed garments 
  •  Ripped muslin shirts 
  •  Political slogans 
  •  Slim, body hugging clothes
  •  DIY philosophy 
  •  See-through mohair jumpers
  •  Visible seams and labels
Vivienne westwood punk style
Source: magazinehorse

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution – high fashion

New Romantic 1981 – 1987

With a downfall of punk Vivienne Westwood explored new ways as a fashion designer. Together with her business partner Malcolm Mclaren she entered the high fashion scene, designing her first ready to wear collection in 1981. Comparing it to previous work of Vivienne, “Pirates” catwalk show presented a big shift from Punk Rock style. 

To find inspiration she studied what people used to wear in the past and transformed it into the contemporary taste. For this reason she developed her ethnic cutting techniques used in various collections. “The Pirates” collection was influenced by 17-18th century pirates and indigenous americans. It was a huge success placing Vivienne Westwood into the mainstream. 

Vivienne Westwood 1981 Pirates collection
1981 Pirates collection;
source: Pinterest
Vivienne westwood 1983-84 Witches collection
1983-84 Witches collection; source:Pinterest
vivienne westwood 1981 Pirates collection
1981 Pirates collection;
source: viviennewestwood

Her other collections in this time period boasted underwear worn as outerwear, for example corsets. She also took inspiration from English tailoring like trench coats in 1984 “Witches” collection, distressed fabric and recycled junk, or Tokyo neon lights.

One of the most memorable pieces is minicrini designed for 1985 collection called the same way. Minicrini presented by Vivienne Westwood is a fusion of the 19th century Victorian crinoline with the modern mini-skirt.

The Pagan Years 1988 – 1992

After splitting with Malcolm Mclaren, Vivienne Westwood detached herself from street fashion. Through her collections she wanted to parody aristocratic clothing of the British upper class. Therefore her AW 1987/8 Harris Tweed collection boasted english fabrics, especially wool from which English Empire uniforms were made. 

Designs from The Pagan Years not only used british fabrics, but also were very sophisticated, featuring fine constructed tailoring. Other sources of inspiration came from Ballet Russe or various paintings. Tartan patterns in several colour variations also appeared in every collection.

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution
Heart shaped jacket from Harris Tweed collection
Heart shaped jacket from Harris Tweed collection; source: Pinterest
Vivienne Westwood brand evolution
Vivienne Westwood’s Fall 1993 Anglomania show
Vivienne Westwood’s Fall 1993 Anglomania show;
source: vogue

Anglomania 1993 – 1999

Vivienne Westwood solidified her style in the 90’s as she often blended English fashion with French proportions, resulting in both polished and outrageous garments . Hourglass silhouette in Anglomania resembled the early work of Christian Dior, accompanied by extremely voluminous gowns that appeared on the catwalk.

Very high heels looked cool, but weren’t really comfortable to walk in, as you might be familiar with Naomi Cambell falling on the runway during the 1993 Anglomania collection.

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution – 2000’s

As trends come and go, highly influential designs of Vivienne in the 90’s lost its relevance in the new millennium. However the brand gained a big recognition among Asian youth – especially in Japan – thanks to a manga called Nana. Its characters wore many Vivienne Westwood designs like horse shoes, the heart lapel jacket and orb necklace. As punk style already influenced Tokyo style throughout the years it only solidified its importance. For this reason most Vivienne Westwood shops can be found in Japan, South Korea or China.

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution 
VW pieces in NANA manga
VW pieces in NANA; Source: Pinterest

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution – recent years

In 2018, Burberry announced collaboration between the classically British house and Westwood. Apart from that the brand encourages people to take actions to prevent the climate crisis. Profits from special capsule collections are funded to organisations fighting against the climate crisis.

Vivienne Westwood brand evolution
Bella Hadid in vintage VW corset
Bella Hadid in vintage VW corset; source: vogue
Vivienne Westwood brand evolution 
FKA Twigs in in vintage VW corset
FKA Twigs in in vintage VW corset; source: vogue

Thanks to celebrities like Bella Hadid spotted wearing vintage Vivienne Westwood corset from the iconic 1993 Anglomania collection, the brand came back to the mainstream. It was even more underlined by how often Vivienne Westwood accessories appeared on various Tiktok videos. Given that the brand experiences its revival and influences youth once again, as it did during the punk rock era.

Vivenne Westwood logo meaning

Her most recognizable orb logo was created in the mid 80’s. Vivienne Westwood used this symbol to acknowledge her British background but with modern flair. It combines The Sovereign’s Orb, a piece of coronation regalia. surrounded by Saturn’s ring, representing the importance of the past while nodding towards the future.

Mini Crini from Vivienne Westwood 1985; source: sincerelyaminee.tumblr

If you are interested in other designer, check my post about Balenciaga.


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