Vivienne Westwood and the Birth of Punk

One of the most iconic and influential designers of the 20th Century, Dame Vivienne Westwood, celebrates her 74th birthday this week and in light of this momentous occasion we thought we’d share with you Vivienne Westwood and the birth of Punk Rock.

The British Fashion Designer pioneered the Punk movement - which developed as a reaction to the economic, political and social turbulence experienced in the UK during the 1970s. She was the first to adopt the punk style and was deeply interested in the 1970’s fashion phenomenon, saying ‘I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way.’ 

Along with her partner in crime, Malcolm McLaren (manager of The Sex Pistols), VW opened a boutique at 430 King’s Road in London. Together they began to design slogan t-shirts with shocking messages which were worn by The Sex Pistols and this inevitably led to their prosecution under the British obscenity laws. By 1974, the two deviants had rebranded their boutique to ‘SEX’ specialising in S&M paraphernalia. The boutique became an outlet for VW’s non-conformist creations.

Swastika motifs, shocking slogans, tartan patterns, de-con/re-con and bricolage became part of the Vivienne Westwood-Punk aesthetic as well as tartan or leather skirts and dirty, torn jeans were also donned by the punks. Another staple item was leather jackets adorned with stud detailing.

Originally, the clothing was a symbolic identity for the ‘Punk’ subculture but were soon adopted by middle and upper class teenagers. Punk styles of clothing evolved into a  widespread fashion movement and a statement against those who had not paid attention to the youths in previous years.
Punk soon entered the mainstream and was adopted by other Fashion Designers. Even today, Punk influences can be seen in the work of Designers such as Gareth Pugh, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Alexander McQueen.

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