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Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer Who Popularized Punk Style, Dies at 81

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 21: Dame Vivienne Westwood suspend 10 Ft high inside giant bird cage in protest for Julian Assange at Old Bailey on July 21, 2020 in London, England. Dame Vivienne Westwood, re-entering public life for the first time after having been shielding for 16 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown, suspends in giant birdcage in front of The Old Bailey Criminal Court, in protest about the illegal U.S. extradition of Julian Assange for telling the truth about American war crimes. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
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Vivienne Westwood, the English fashion designer who brought punk style to the world, died on Thursday. She was 81.

“Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London,” a post on her official Twitter page reads. “The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better.”

The announcement includes the following quote from Westwood: “Tao spiritual system. There was never more need for the Tao today. Tao gives you a feeling that you belong to the cosmos and gives purpose to your life; it gives you such a sense of identity and strength to know you’re living the life you can live and therefore ought to be living: make full use of your character and full use of your life on earth.”

First rising to prominence in the 1970s as the co-owner of the boutique SEX along with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, Westwood helped to shape the style of the U.K. punk scene.

The shop became a meeting place for punk bands, and Westwood’s creations, worn by London punk rockers, introduced a new style to the world that made use of pinned-together pieces, rubber and plastic clothes, lots of zippers, tartan bondage trousers, torn fabric and graffitied t-shirts. Chrissie Hynde and members of the Sex Pistols were among the influential shop’s employees.

The shop was renamed Seditionaries – Clothes for Heroes and then World’s End as Westwood’s interests moved away from the punk scene.

Members of bands including Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Slits were influenced by her fashion, and Viv Albertine of the Slits wrote in her memoir, “Vivienne and Malcolm use clothes to shock, irritate and provoke a reaction but also to inspire change. Mohair jumpers, knitted on big needles, so loosely that you can see all the way through them, T-shirts slashed and written on by hand, seams and labels on the outside, showing the construction of the piece; these attitudes are reflected in the music we make. It’s OK to not be perfect, to show the workings of your life and your mind in your songs and your clothes.”

In addition to her fashion collections, she designed the uniforms for flight attendants from Virgin Atlantic and provided wardrobe for Elisabeth Shue in “Leaving Las Vegas” as well as for “Shadowboxer” and “Twenty-One.”

A 2018 documentary, “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist” covered her life and work, and she was portrayed in the FX mini-series “Pistol” by Talulah Riley. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw character wore one of Westwood’s wedding dress creations in the film version of “Sex and the City.”

Westwood was a longtime political activist, working to fight consumerism, protect the environment and protest causes such as wage inequality.

She is survived by her husband, Andreas Kronthaler, and two sons.