Vivienne Westwood is one of the icons of our age; fashion designer, activist, co-creator of punk, global brand and grandmother; a true living legend. Both her name and brand are recognised the world over, whilst at home in the UK she has attained National Treasure status as the nation’s favourite fearless female icon.
This is her story, told for the first time in all its glamour and glory and with her unique voice, unexpected perspective and passionate honesty.
For the first and only time, she is both writing and collaborating on a unique personal memoir and authorised biography: partly her own voice, partly through contributions from her vast network of friends, family and associates. Ian Kelly (award-winning biographer of, amongst others, fashion maverick Beau Brummell and the original self-publicist, Giacomo Casanova) brings the insights of a historian and friend of Vivienne to the life and works of one of the major influences of our age.
Ian Kelly describes his friend, subject and muse: ‘Vivienne is much more than what you first see. She is passionately committed to human rights and to eco-politics, but as well as that I am keen to tell the truth about a huge-hearted, warm and witty individual, whose face and clothes are known the world over, but who is also recognisably the Derbyshire primary school teacher who met and fell in love with Malcolm McLaren and changed the world.’
Her eclectic group of friends, activists and confrères range from Pamela Anderson to Prince Charles, Shami Chakrabati, Naomi Campbell, Jerry Hall, Bob Geldof and Julian Assange; many of them contribute unique letters and stories to this work, along with those of her close family and her design partner and husband, Andreas Kronthaler.
Vivienne Swire was born in rural Derbyshire. She came to London in her late teens, and was married, divorced and bringing up her first son, Ben, in her early twenties, when she met Malcolm McLaren. Together they created the global phenomenon of punk – managing the Sex Pistols, and running a clothing emporium at the end of the King’s Road. They also had a son together, Joe (who went on to found Agent Provocateur). So began a journey of self-discovery and intellectual ambition that found her basing entire collections on eighteenth-century paintings, and teaching herself to be perhaps the best cutter working in fashion.
She has had, as a result, a profound impact on fashion and tailoring, responsible for, among other things, a re-invigoration of the entire British tweed industry. Her zest for life and for ideas has moved her more and more into political activism, and she is now on the board of Liberty, the human rights organisation, and is a Greenpeace spokesperson. She donates nearly all her money to saving the rainforests and the Arctic circle, living simply with the husband she met when she was teaching fashion (Andreas is twenty-five years her junior). She has no intention, at seventy-two, of retiring or shrinking from her activist role.
‘The thing you need to know about Vivienne is that she is utterly genuine, utterly committed. She is like the village elder you know has wise things to say, but who is also questioning, striving, and hungry to understand more. She is an icon, and the most important practical feminist I can think of. She got on with it. She founded an empire. She is full of love for those around her – generous to a fault. And meanwhile, she looks fantastic!’ Shami Chakrabati, human rights campaigner.
Vivienne Westwood’s authorised life story will be published by Picador in hardback, October 2014. UK and Commonwealth rights.
Vivienne Westwood (c) Andy Gotts