Vivienne Westwood: Life and Influence

Born on April 8th 1941, British fashion designer or some call her co-creator of punk, Vivienne Isabel Swire helped break boundaries in the fashion industry that had never been done before and since then has continued to leave her mark. Westwood was given her infamous last name when she married Derek Westwood.

Originally she thought she was going to become a teacher so that is what she worked on, but as time went on she realized this wasn’t for her and the same with her marriage. After leaving her first husband, she then married Malcom Mclaren who introduced a side of her that showed her creativity and just how far her mind would go.

She began making jewelry just for fun and when her husband opened up a boutique featuring her designs from the accessories, it was just the beginning for her career. Her style showed how fearless and unique she was which is what a lot of people who buy her designs resonate with. Some of her high fashion statements include metallics, plaids, frills, crinks, tweed, and more. 

Although the fashion industry is full of fun and exciting opportunities as well as showing your creative side, there are also much more legal aspects. It is much more than what you see on a magazine cover, an expensive price tag, a collaboration between two designers, or limited edition collections. It is said that almost 2 million people in the United States are employed within the world of fashion. So how does licensing work when it comes to a designer, company, or brand that wants to release products to a demanding audience of consumers?

Most designers use their names or a certain logo to trademark their own work that differentiates them from other designers and their products. Once they trademark their work, another company takes the control and they agree with the designer to manufacture their needs and help distribute and sell the work that they are creating. This is also known as the licensing agreement because the designer, or licensor is making a deal with the licensee so they can begin the merchandising process. 

Vivienne Westwood and her team signed a licensing agreement according to and this was said to have taken place with her 2014 fall collections. The agreement lasted for five years up until last year which was 2019. The licensing with Staff International SpA also first began their relationship with Westwood in 1989 partly because she wanted to now have new opportunities to distribute her products in places like Asia.

According to, the managing director of Vivienne Westwood, Carlo D’Amario said that, “this partnership with Staff International represents the continuity that is for us at the center of creative development.”  Westwood also claims that her brand is eco-friendly but many agree that she isn’t and there are several articles on that as well. As far as where the products for her brand are made, most of them are from Italy and in England since that is where she grew up and began the brand.

On Westwood’s actual website,, she says that her brand “has always partnered with local industries and artisans as well as, later in her career, bigger Italian factories.” They have traditional British textiles and Savile Row tailoring which are skilled to make her products.

Westwood is also part of several independent businesses including Harris Tweed which is a handwoven tweed and online retailer, Lochcarron of Scotland. In the factories, Westwood follows and commits to having a voice within her clothes. She wants to mobilize people around the world which is why her work is based on three approaches, “Quality v Quantity, Gaia, and Arts & Culture.

The process of the products includes embracing sustainable fibers and fabrics, sourcing raw materials, minimal social and environmental impacts, animal welfare, low impact dyeing, organic cotton, no exotic skins, no fur, no hazardous chemicals, plastic free packaging, elimination of single use plastic, and a ton more. 

Despite the licensing and legal aspects of the brand, Vivienne Westwood herself has a rags to riches story just like many other designers who rose to fame. Westwood is most known for her punk and provocative styled clothing. In 1972, a lot of her designs were now including zippers, leathers, skulls, crossbones, and the boutique of her husband was renamed to “Sex.” Much more hard core pictures and sexual ideas were introduced to her work.

This is when many started to call it “punk rock” and this rebellion look became particularly popular. Since Westwood was responsible for this new idea of fashion, it made sense that she was worth licensing because her name was starting to get big and her designs were as well. She was reinventing and mixing together styles and throwing in a youthful touch that gravitated so many to want to embody such a look.

The entire style of punk related clothing that so many people and style icons use today, whether they’re celebrities or just people you see on the street, is definitely what I believe due to the influence of  Westwood. Just around the time this year, in November of 2019, Vogue published an article about how Vivienne Westwood was now the “Modern It Girl’s Label Of Choice.” Celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Kristen Stewart, Gigi Hadid, Miley Cyrus, Hailey Bieber, and more were wearing her Orb necklaces, t-shirts, and corset tops. Hailey Bieber also had a custom corset mini dress in ivory to a rehearsal dinner the night before she married Justin Bieber. Westwood says, “My customers are the best ambassadors for my clothes…when people discover them, they seem to have an edge” 

Even when Westwood was still building up her foundation in the industry of fashion, her clothes, accessories, garments, and more were not geared towards a specific audience but more towards anyone who wanted to take a chance and really express their personality through their style. This specific style was also something very out of the ordinary so it was much more unique than any other type of fashion during her time which is another reason why so much attention was given to her and her creativity. 

Thank you so much for reading! 
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Author: Pamela Valdez

Content Writer Intern for She's SINGLE Magazine, Social Media Marketing Intern, and PR Editorial Intern for Access by NKC. Pursuing fashion industry and will be an upcoming undergraduate at FIT.