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Punk Counterpunk

Bee Wilson, 20 November 2014

Vivienne Westwood 
by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly.
Picador, 463 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 1 4472 5412 6
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... time​ in 1979, after the death of Sid Vicious and before the enthronement of Margaret Thatcher, Vivienne Westwood ‘lost interest’ in punk. She and her lover Malcolm McLaren had been at the heart of the British version: they had dreamed up much of the look, the attitude and the lyrics, though not the sound. A full year before David Bowie adopted the ...

Mother Punk

Zoë Heller: Vivienne Westwood, 10 December 1998

Vivienne WestwoodAn Unfashionable Life 
by Jane Mulvagh.
HarperCollins, 402 pp., £19.99, September 1998, 0 00 255625 1
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... In 1972, Vivienne Westwood, a 31-year-old mother of two, sat down at the kitchen table of her council flat in Clapham and began decorating white T-shirts to sell at Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, the shop at 430 King’s Road owned and run by her boyfriend, Malcolm McLaren. Westwood’s previous T-shirts, which bore screenprint images of rock’n’roll idols and slogans like ‘Vive la Rock’, had not sold well ...

Sempre Armani

John Harvey: Peacockery, 7 May 1998

The Man of Fashion: Male Peacocks and Perfect Gentlemen 
by Colin McDowell.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £29.95, October 1997, 0 500 01797 2
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... than in women’s – there seems to be an element of aesthetic clowning. One men’s jacket by Vivienne Westwood is an exaggerated male torso made of tinted pearls, while another is made of coloured ostrich feathers. There is a man in a plastic blue and yellow space jacket, with fins instead of cuffs and epaulettes. This is fashion display in its pure ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: What Writers Wear, 27 July 2017

... casualness’, the heavy jeans with deep cuffs and tight white T-shirts, influenced Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren to call their King’s Road shop Sex after an entry in Orton’s diary: ‘sex is the only way to infuriate them.’ They stocked a suitably lurid Prick Up Your Ears T-shirt. The most intricate and poignant of ...

At Tate Liverpool

Peter Campbell: Gustav Klimt, 3 July 2008

... espadrilles are as timeless as the welted shoe made on your own last in St James’s, the shoes Vivienne Westwood models have been known to fall off are stylish. The products of the Wiener Werkstätte were that above all. Hoffmann’s coffee pot, like many traditional ones, has a handle that sticks out from the side. But traditional coffee-pot handles ...

Jubilee 1977

Robin Bunce and Paul Field, 9 June 2022

... anarchic antics and seditious lyrics, none of those involved – among them Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood – faced criminal charges. The performance was a publicity stunt devised by McLaren and Richard Branson to promote the band’s new single. The Silver Jubilee’s real radical was the Black activist Darcus Howe, born in Trinidad in ...

Serious Mayhem

Simon Reynolds: The McLaren Strand, 10 March 2022

The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren: The Biography 
by Paul Gorman.
Constable, 855 pp., £14.99, November 2021, 978 1 4721 2111 0
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... in May 1968. Some of these utopian battle-cries reappeared on the T-shirts designed by McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and sold in their King’s Road boutique. Slogans and recycled Situationist graphics popped up on Sex Pistols record sleeves and promotional material. Even before this, during his brief stint managing the New York Dolls in 1975, McLaren had ...

Drama of the Gowns

Lisa Cohen, 22 April 2021

Patch Work: A Life amongst Clothes 
by Claire Wilcox.
Bloomsbury, 270 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 1 5266 1439 1
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... exhibitions in the museum’s history: Radical Fashion (2001); Versace at the V&A (2002); the Vivienne Westwood retrospective (2004); The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (2007); the spectacular Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2015); and Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up (2018). She has worked on two major reorganisations of the ...

Aunt Twackie’s Bazaar

Andy Beckett: Seventies Style, 19 August 2010

70s Style and Design 
by Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £24.90, November 2009, 978 0 500 51483 2
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... of a succession of youth tribes themselves. There is a telling photo here of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood in 1971, posing in their first shop, young and hungry-looking and dressed for attention. But it would be another five years before they became famous, for stage-managing the rise of the Sex Pistols. In the British 1970s, even in the most ...
England’s dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock 
by Jon Savage.
Faber, 602 pp., £17.50, October 1991, 0 571 13975 2
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... in the King’s Road. The space being discussed is the shop that was to become Sex, where Vivienne Westwood invented the Destroy T-shirt, where Malcolm McLaren conspired with his cronies and first met Johnny Rotten. Sex went on to become Seditionaries, and is still World’s End, the shop with the backward-running clock outside it and the crooked ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: Alexander McQueen, 4 June 2015

... was another of McQueen’s maxims. Customising was a watchword of punk, with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood the subject of a more recent show at the Met also created by Andrew Bolton. Customising is a form of bespoke and bespoke relies on those trades that go back to the Middle Ages and are commemorated in the names of the City Companies and ...

Killing Stripes

Christopher Turner: Suits, 1 June 2017

Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress 
by Anne Hollander.
Bloomsbury, reissue, 158 pp., £19.99, August 2016, 978 1 4742 5065 8
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The Suit: Form, Function and Style 
by Christopher Breward.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £18, May 2016, 978 1 78023 523 3
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... endlessly recycling the aesthetic challenges of the fringe into mainstream culture. Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood introduced the mod and punk to high-end tailoring; Ozwald Boateng and Richard James brought peacock colours and a new, sharp swagger back to Savile Row; Tom Ford and Christopher Bailey revived the louche elegance of Walter Albini and 1930s ...

I’m a Cahunian

Adam Mars-Jones: Claude Cahun, 2 August 2018

Never Anyone But You 
by Rupert Thomson.
Corsair, 340 pp., £18.99, June 2018, 978 1 4721 5350 0
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... in them shaven-headed. For a woman to cut off her long hair was still a transgressive act when Vivienne Westwood did it, at Malcolm McLaren’s urging, half a century later, and Westwood stopped short of shaving her eyebrows, as Cahun did, to remove cues of expressiveness we take for granted. The effect is in great ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... where around six we join a straggling queue of notables, the actors the most obvious, though Vivienne Westwood is her usual unobtrusive self. Talk to various people in the queue, one of whom seems to know my plays well but then congratulates me on my paintings of trees – she’s the first of three people who confuse me with Hockney and though he ...

More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn, 8 May 2014

Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... is a curious production, both off-the-peg and strangely skewed, like some sweatshop version of Vivienne Westwood. There are jokey names (Page and Turner for a publisher, John Elton for an American literary agent with a disfiguring hair transplant) and passages of broad pastiche, such as this from a novel about Shakespeare: ‘“Fye, Will,” said ...

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