Over her 40-year career, Vivienne Westwood's inspirations have crossed the globe and spanned eras. Maybe the one constant is her audacity — an inherent instinct for tweaking conventional morality, gleefully dispensing with taboo, and investigating the class signifiers we deploy with dress.
Those ideas so shaped the punk attitude and aesthetic, and run so deeply throughout her own work, that even when Westwood stopped designing bondage suits and stenciled tees and started playing with Victorian influences and classic British luxury, her designs still carry a hint of anarchy. A new book called Vivienne Westwood: Fashion Unfolds gives us a fascinating tour through the ideas and obsessions that shaped the career of a true fashion provocateur. Ahead, we explore the inspiration behind six of her most iconic and influential designs.
The Bondage Suit, 1977 Westwood had already made her own versions of leather and rubber bondage suits. But in 1977, she combined the fetish-wear form with different fabrics: tartan, army surplus cotton, and sateen. The result, playing as it did with sexual taboos as well as notions of Britishness and militarism, was even more subversive than wearing something straight out of a sex shop, and became one of Westwood's most successful (and copied) designs.
Cut & Slash Suit, Spring 1991
Vivienne Westwood's first-ever men's collection featured this denim suit that sported a series of holes and slashes created by hand and machine, using an embroidery or button-sewing program that the operator stopped mid-process. The deconstructed-in-the-extreme took "distressed denim" to its logical — yet absurd — conclusion, produced fascinating textures and glimpses of skin, and presaged
's denim experimentations by a good couple of decades.
Anglomania Kilt, Fall 1993
The runway show most famous for producing
Naomi Campbell's famous tumble
from an extremely high pair of platform Gillie shoes, Westwood's Anglomania collection was massively influential, widely knocked-off, and was probably the reason every girl in
wore a kilt.
The tartans used were the result of careful research — the one shown here is called MacAndreas, which Westwood designed herself in tribute to her partner, had woven by the famed Scottish weavers Lochcarron, and is now included in the official Scottish Register of Tartans.
Mini Crini, Spring 1985
The Mini Crini was Westwood's cheeky take on the fussy crinolines worn by Victorian nobility — cross those poufy layers with a very different icon of Bristish dress, the Mary Quant miniskirt, and an instant classic was born. The Mini Crini was embraced by
, New Romantics, and the burgeoning
movement, too. Not bad, Viv.
Anarchy Shirt, 1976
After a trip to New York, Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren returned to their London shop inspired. There, they took
hacked-up haircut and torn clothes, the New York Dolls'
alienated, adrogynous glam
, added their own twist of Situationist sloganeering, and created a line of clothes that would become the alienation-as-fashion-statement look of punk.
The Anarchy shirt shown here featured the stenciled slogan "Dangerously Close To Love," and a screenprinted image of Karl Marx. What more could a young seditionary want?
Armour Jacket, Fall 1988 Westwood became fascinated with 14th-century armor, having studied it at London's Wallace Collection museum. For her fall '88 collection, she rendered the jointed sleeves and protective forms in soft, cricket-blazer tweeds, creating something more cocoon-like than warlike.
Vivienne Westwood: Fashion Unfolds
is available now at