Vivienne Westwood: Politics and Fashion

British Fashion Council

Fashion Designer & Activist.

Vivienne Westwood began designing in 1971 along with her then partner Malcolm McLaren. At the time they used their shop at 430 Kings Road, London, to showcase their ideas and designs. With their changing ideas of fashion came the change of not only the name of the shop but also the décor. It was in 1976 when Westwood and McLaren defined the street culture of Punk with Seditionaries. By the end of the seventies Vivienne Westwood was already considered a symbol of the British avant-garde and for Autumn/Winter 1981 she showed her first catwalk presentation at Olympia in London. Westwood then turned to traditional Savile Row tailoring techniques, using British fabrics and 17th and 18th century art for inspiration. 1989 was the year that Vivienne met Andreas Kronthaler, who would later become her husband and long-time design partner, as well as Creative Director of the brand. In 2004 the Victoria & Albert museum, London, hosted a Vivienne Westwood retrospective exhibition to celebrate her then 34 years in fashion – the largest exhibition ever devoted to a living British fashion designer. In 2006, her contribution to British Fashion was officially recognised when she was appointed Dame of the British Empire by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Vivienne Westwood is one of the last independent global fashion companies in the world. Always thought provoking, the brand is about more than producing clothes and accessories. Westwood continues to capture the imagination, and raise awareness of environmental and human rights issues. With a design record spanning over forty years, Vivienne Westwood is now recognised as a global brand and Westwood herself as one of the most influential fashion designers, and activists, in the world today.


Vivienne Westwood has always used her collections and catwalk shows as a platform to campaign for positive activism. She has spent many years tirelessly speaking out about the effects of climate change and overconsumption, and has mobilised international attention around ecological crusading. Vivienne compares the dire situation to battle:

“It’s a war for the very existence of the human race. And that of the planet. The most important weapon we have is public opinion: go to art galleries, start to understand the world you live in. You're a freedom fighter as soon as you start doing that.” 

As well as Human rights, Vivienne is passionate about the environment and actively supports the charity, Cool Earth, in their efforts to save the rainforest and stop climate change, as well as supporting the Environmental Justice Foundation and Friends of the Earth- amongst others. Vivienne is also an ambassador for Greenpeace and in 2013 designed their official ‘Save the Artic’ logo and in 2015 launched a global campaign to stop drilling and industrial fishing in the area.

Vivienne inaugurated the 'Climate Revolution' at the 2012 London Paralympics closing ceremony and continues to rally charities, NGO’s and individuals to join forces and to take action against disengaged political leaders and big business.

“The Revolution is already begun. The fact of man-made climate change is accepted by most people. Through every walk of life people are changing their values and their behaviour.  This continues to build the Revolution. The fight is no longer between the classes or between rich and poor but between the idiots and the eco-conscious.”
Vivienne Westwood.

Vivienne’s blog: and recently published diaries ‘Get A Life’, feature detailed personal commentary on her concerns, passions and campaigns.

Invitation to Vivienne Westwood Gold Label 'Mirror the World' Spring/Summer 2016 collection.

Taking the challenges faced by modern day Venice as a mirror to those of the wider world, Vivienne Westwood and her husband and design partner, Andreas Kronthaler, used their Spring / Summer 2016 Collection to promote this. The problem there is one of repair, mass tourism on cruise ships and of climate change. This campaign encouraged people to visit and find out more about the challenges Venice is facing and the activists who are looking for solutions.
Describing Venice as an 'emporium of culture' Vivienne Westwood references its 'carnivals', the dressing up, the disguises and how anything can seem possible; the poor can become rich, ugly can be beautiful and men can turn into women (and vice versa). Everyone in disguise in St. Mark's Square or disappearing round corners into those narrow streets. The mask dates from a primitive time when people indulged in excess so that their sins could be forgiven before the new spring. 

Backstage at the Vivienne Westwood Gold Label 'Mirror the World' Spring / Summer 2016 Show.


Sam McKnight is one of the most respected session stylists in the world and has worked with Vivienne Westwood for many years on catwalk shows and campaigns, including the Gold Label ‘Mirror The World’ Spring / Summer 2016 show.


Val Garland is one of the world's top make-up artists and is a regular collaborator with Vivienne Westwood. She is known for her highly conceptual work and as well as working with Vivienne Westwood she has been a key part of iconic shows for Alexander McQueen and John Galliano for Dior. For the 'Mirror the World' show Val Garland created looks that distorted the models eyes and mouths to emphasise the cracks of a broken mirror. Her work created a look that was both beautiful and arresting in equal measure.

Preparations being made for the 'Mirror the World' show at Paris Fashion Week 2015.


Shot around the alleys & canals, shipyards and palazzos of Venice, the campaign highlights the beauty & decay of Venice and the urgent need to save it.

Juergen Teller (born January 28, 1964) is a German artist and fine-art and fashion photographer. Juergen has photographed Vivienne and Andreas’ campaigns for a number of years and they continue to work together.

‘Juergen somehow always manages to get the picture, he gets to the route of the matter every time he takes a photograph.’
Vivienne Westwood


"The most important philosophical question ever asked is “what is a good life?” A good life is one which mirrors the world. That means that you understand the world through art and culture. You understand the genius of the human race and you understand yourself in relation to it. You’re like a little tiny shard of mirror glass that’s exactly a copy of the whole world. You’re very beautiful because you understand the beauty of the world and you understand the human race and you want to do your best."
Dame Vivienne Westwood

“It’s a war for the very existence of the human race. And that of the planet. The most important weapon we have is public opinion: go to art galleries, start to understand the world you live in. You're a freedom fighter as soon as you start doing that.”
Dame Vivienne Westwood.

“I love this city and its culture. I want to encourage people to love art and believe that culture can save the world. Culture is about people’s outlook on the world and along with art, is the anchor that holds us together as a people and gives life greater meaning.”

Dame Vivienne Westwood on London

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Vivienne Westwood.

All rights belong to Vivienne Westwood unless otherwise specifically stated. All models and photographers have been credited where known.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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