Vivienne Westwood’s Personal Wardrobe Auction: A Tribute to the “Queen of Punk”

The personal wardrobe of the late British fashion designer and political activist Vivienne Westwood is set to go on sale, with all proceeds donated to causes she fervently supported. Known as the “queen of punk,” Westwood’s legacy continues to inspire through “Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection,” which features over 250 items of clothing and accessories.

Iconic Pieces and Political Statements

This remarkable collection includes some of Westwood’s most iconic designs, such as corsets, tartan patterns, billowing taffeta gowns, platform heels, and T-shirts adorned with political slogans. Many of these pieces were runway looks before becoming staples in Westwood’s personal wardrobe, reflecting her distinctive style and her commitment to fashion as a form of activism.

The auction, hosted online by Christie’s in London, commences on Friday and concludes on June 28, with a live auction scheduled for June 25. Among the lots are custom-designed playing card prints, which highlight critical issues like climate change, social inequality, and human rights. Ten of these prints, enlarged and signed by Westwood before her death in 2022 at the age of 81, will raise funds for Greenpeace.

Charitable Contributions and Legacy

Proceeds from the auction will support various charities, including Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and the Vivienne Foundation. The latter, established by Westwood herself, collaborates with NGOs to create a better society and combat climate change. Clementine Swallow, the collection’s cataloguer and sale coordinator, mentioned that “Vivienne’s Playing Cards” served as the catalyst for this larger charitable endeavor.

Swallow noted that although Westwood knew she wouldn’t see the project to completion, she wished for her personal wardrobe to benefit the causes she cherished. Westwood’s widower, Andreas Kronthaler, has been deeply involved in curating the auction. “He’s personally put together each of the lots to be an outfit she would have worn,” Swallow shared, emphasizing the personal significance of these items.

Highlights of the Collection

The collection spans Westwood’s extensive career, showcasing her cultural impact and diverse influences. One of the earliest pieces is a navy jacket-and-skirt ensemble from the “World’s End, Witches” Autumn-Winter 1983 collection, created during her collaboration with Malcolm McLaren, her first husband and manager of the Sex Pistols.

Westwood’s designs often drew from British history, infusing classic styles with a provocative edge. Notable items include a taffeta ball gown with bondage-style black wrappings and garments featuring political graphics and slogans, underscoring her dedication to social justice. Swallow remarked, “A big part of Vivienne’s identity is activism… She used her clothes as a mouthpiece to voice her ideas and political opinions.”

Additional highlights include Westwood’s signature pink tartan pattern and a cropped blue jacket, identical to the one worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell during her infamous fall on the catwalk in 12-inch platform heels. Early examples of Westwood’s elasticated corsets are also part of the collection.

Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability is a central theme in the collection, with the most expensive piece being a cut-out illusion gown intricately beaded and gold-paneled, crafted with artisans in Kenya. All materials used in the exhibition, including cardboard signage and plywood stands, are recycled or recyclable. “It’s been a great lesson for us, proving that we can do recyclable exhibitions,” Swallow said.

Auction Expectations

Items in the collection are listed at prices ranging from £200 to £7,000 ($255 to $9,000), though they are expected to fetch much higher prices due to Westwood’s esteemed reputation. Museums and other institutions are likely bidders, but Swallow expressed that Westwood “loved the idea that her clothes might be worn by real people.” She added, “The idea that they might have another life is wonderful.”

This auction not only celebrates Vivienne Westwood’s extraordinary contributions to fashion but also continues her mission of advocacy and sustainability, ensuring her legacy lives on through both her designs and her charitable endeavors.

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