“Fashion is life-enhancing and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people,” Vivienne Westwood once said, and what a generous life she gave to all of us. As a purveyor and historian of all that was Punk, Westwood achieved something that an icon of fashion and culture rarely does: she was the style. When you think of Punk, her name was the first to come to mind, an enigma who was out in the open, a true original who embodied it naturally.
Punk was like that. It resonates so much with us today because it was anti-establishment, anti-rock, anti-fashion, almost undefinable and hard to pinpoint, but it allowed someone to truly be themselves. Through her designs and words, through her presence alone, the question whether “Punk was dead” could ostensibly be forgotten because she was the word. It evolved because the likes of Westwood evolved, of course, and her ethos never wavered. She once said, “To me, a hero is somebody who’s prepared to stick their neck out, to step out and walk tall, and to live life. That’s how I see a hero.” And she was that hero for so many. Shepard Fairey, a trailblazer of street art and the art of dissidence, as well, would paid homage to Westwood some years ago, stamping her once again in the public consciousness as the icon she truly was.
Westwood passed away on December 29, 2022, in London, at the age of 81. When we heard the news, her words immediately came to mind. “I would like to be the last person on Earth. I’d like to know how it works out.” Punk may not have died, but we might have just seen the last real Punk on earth. —Evan Pricco
This article was originally published in our Spring 2023 Quarterly // Art by Shepard Fairey, Vivienne Westwood, Spray paint, pochoir and collage, 2005