Vivienne Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire on 8th April 1941 and at the age of 17, Vivienne and her family moved to London.
She began designing in 1971 along with her partner Malcolm McLaren when London was at the forefront of cultural trends. The showcase for their ideas and designs was the shop at 430 Kings Road, London. With her changing ideas of fashion came the change of not only the name of the shop but the entire decor as well. In 1971, 430 Kings Road was known as "Let It Rock". 1950s Rock n' Roll records and clothing were sold at a time when 'hippies' were the fashion and Rock n' Roll music was rarely heard on British Radio. In 1972 however, the shop was renamed "Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die" where Westwood and McLaren sold Zoot suits, clothing with zips and chains and T-shirts with slogans. This was followed by "Sex" in 1974 where the shop sold provocative clothing including rubberwear for the office, leather bondage, T-shirts with zips and holes, bold slogans and pornographic images such as the infamous T-shirt with the photographic print of a woman's breast which remains a classic. With 1976 came punk and "Seditionaries" which saw Westwood and McLaren redefine a street culture of their own and this was followed by "World's End" which remains the shop's name to this day.
By the end of the seventies Vivienne Westwood was already considered a symbol of the British avant-garde and in Autumn/Winter 1981 she showed her first catwalk presentation at Olympia in London. In October 1982, Westwood began to show in Paris, the first British designer to do so since Mary Quant. She opened a second shop in London called "Nostalgia of Mud" which closed at the end of 1984 and this coincided with the end of Westwood and McLaren's collaboration.
1984 was an extremely significant year Vivienne Westwood where she was invited to show her collection in Tokyo with Hanae Mori, Calvin Klein, Claude Montana, and Gianfranco Ferre at "the Best of Five". The year also marked a radical change of direction in design for her. Street style and youth culture ceased to play a major part of her world and instead, Westwood looked to traditional Savile Row tailoring techniques, British fabrics and 17th and 18th century art for inspiration. The orb logo that was first used around this time perfectly symbolised her taking of tradition into the future.
In 1989 Mr. John Fairchild, President of Fairchild publications and Editor of the fashion trade bible Women's Wear Daily, in his book "chic savages", listed Westwood as one of the six most influential designers in the world. It was in the same year that she met Andreas Kronthaler, who would later become her husband and long-time collaborator as well as Creative Director of Vivienne Westwood. Westwood has always included menswear within her womenswear collections but in July 1990, Westwood showed her first complete menswear collection at Pitti Uomo in Florence. Westwood was awarded the prestigious title of British designer of the year in 1990. In January 1991, she was chosen to show in Tokyo once again, this time alongside Christian Lacroix, Isaac Mizrahi, and Francesco Moschino at the Fashion Summit. In the same year, Westwood was awarded British Designer of the year for the second time running. In 1992, Westwood was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
1993 brought the division of her womenswear label in to two different lines - "Gold Label", the couture range and "Red Label" the pret-â-porter line. "Man" her independent menswear line made its debut to international acclaim in 1996 during Collezioni Uomo in Milan. In 1998 Westwood launched a new line "Anglomania" in order to complete the Westwood universe and to cater to a younger and more casual market. In the same year Vivienne Westwood launched her first fragrance "Boudoir" which was to be followed by the bodyline "Les Coquetteries" in 1999. Westwood began designing a complete range of eyewear -sunglasses and optical - for world wide distribution and her second fragrance "Libertine" was launched in 2001.
A third fragrance "Anglomania" was launched in 2004 and the same year saw the V&A host a Vivienne Westwood retrospective exhibition to celebrate her 34 years in fashion - the largest exhibition ever devoted to a living British fashion designer - which is now touring the world. In 2006, her contribution towards British Fashion was officially recognised when she was appointed Dame of the British Empire.
2007 saw the launch of two new fragrances, "Boudoir Sin Garden" and "Let it Rock" as well as the first Anglomania catwalk show presented at the Mercedes Benz Fashion week in Berlin. In the same year, she was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Fashion at the British Fashion Awards in London.
In these years Vivienne also wrote a cultural Manifesto called "Active Residence to Propaganda". The idea of the Manifesto evolved through her fashion shows and started by the designer's will of making the World's End shop very active. In the Manifesto, Vivienne speaks to the young people of today "...against the consumption of crap and obsessive consumption..."
In 2008 Vivienne Westwood showed her Red Label in London after almost a decade of absence from her country and called on other British brands that now only show abroad to follow her example. In February 2008, Westwood launched the Vivienne Westwood Opus, published by Kraken Sports & Media Ltd. The Opus includes a total of 92 giant Polaroids of the designer's family and friends which are accompanied by Vivienne's cultural manifesto 'Active Resistance to Propaganda'.
In May 2008 the Vivienne Westwood V&A Retrospective is held at The Sheffield Galleries (in Sheffield) and in October is shown in Hong Kong at the Cornwall House (TaiKoo Place).
Vivienne Westwood is a fashion brand for all ages that transcends generations. It is for those with a rebellious spirit who dare to be different and want to be ahead of their time. Through an extensive distribution network Vivienne Westwood Products are today sold in 86 countries throughout 5 continents with over 20 product lines.
Today Vivienne Westwood Ltd is proud to be a growing and entirely independent company. Vivienne Westwood is now both recognized as a global brand and Vivienne herself one of the most influential fashion designers in the world.