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Born in 1941 in Tintwistle, England, Westwood began her fashion story upon meeting Malcom McLaren, manager of the band Sex Pistols, in the early 1970s and moving to London to open their boutique. The two quickly became known and recognised for their edgy and rebellious designs that rejected social norms and were often considered controversial by society. Their boutique, which started as Let it Rock, took on many name changes over the years, changing to fit the clothing they were selling at the time, before finally becoming World's End as it’s known today. Together, the two created a space for individuality and self expression in modern fashion and became highly regarded among the Punk community.
Into the 1980s, Westwood began to create her own name in the fashion world, releasing high end fashion collections to be presented at catwalk shows. Her brand soon began to develop its own identity, becoming associated with her iconic use of plaid print, corset tops and pearl accessories which are still staples in her releases today. Her FW 1993-94 Anglomania collection is one example of these staples coming together to create the classic yet rebellious look that the designer became known for throughout her career. Years later, for her FW Unisex: Time To Act 2015-16 collection, Westwood continued to make use of these staples, a testament to her ability to adapt her identifying designs to a modern audience and remain relevant to the fashion world throughout the decades.
Model Bella Hadid described Westwood as the “Queen of Punk” in an Instagram tribute to the designer, a description that reigns true of Westwood in the minds of many familiar with the fashion industry. By designing items of clothing for the Sex Pistols in her early years as a designer, Westwood was able to bring the music and fashion worlds together, developing an image for the typical punk aesthetic we are familiar with today. The clothing designed by Westwood at this time was experimental and ahead of its time, being described as ‘crude’ and ‘rough’, working with the musical style of the band.
During her lifetime, Westwood was also known to be an avid environmentalist, winning the Glamour Environmental Game Changer award in 2021. Westwood’s Climate Revolution campaign, which was launched during the 2012 London Paralympic games closing ceremony, focused on bringing individuals and charity organizations together to protest against corporate businesses polluting the planet. In 2017, Westwood launched the Switch Campaign, this time in collaboration with the British Fashion Council and the mayor of London, to encourage the fashion industry to switch to more renewable energy sources.
Aside from her own campaigning, Westwood also collaborated with other environmental organisations, one example being Greenpeace, to whom she became an ambassador for. In 2013, she worked with the organisation on their Save the Arctic campaign, designing the t-shirts and logo that were worn in the photographs for the campaign. Westwood also worked with and supported PETA and Cool Earth throughout her career as a designer.
Her environmental ethics have also been carried into her own fashion collections, centering the brand around the idea of encouraging people to buy less and make clothing last. Where possible, her brand uses materials with lower environmental impacts such as sustainably sourced wool and cotton and have also made an effort to reduce carbon emission in recent years by producing 33% less items for their ready to wear collections than they have previously. As said before, she was the first and strongest political fashion designer against climate change.
Westwood has continuously used her platform as a designer to stand up for what she believes in, never being afraid of the controversy that might follow. She is a piece of the fashion industry that will be missed by many and that will be remembered for her impact for years to come.