British Style Genius / Home Page

Westwood and McLaren plundered the pirate look
Westwood and McLaren plundered the pirate look
Rebel :: the look

Video

Video clip

Malcolm McLaren on historical influences

Reflections on the 18th century inspirations on Vivienne Westwood

Video clip

Malcolm McLaren on the 50s

McLaren reveals the influences behind his first shop, Let It Rock

Video clip

Malcolm McLaren on punks arrival

McLaren reflects on where punk fashions originated from

Video clip

Malcolm McLaren on culture

McLaren describes what he was trying to achieve with the fetish fashion

Influences on Westwood and McLaren

Fifties revival

Vivienne Westwood and her partner, Malcolm McLaren, started out with their shop Let It Rock on the Kings Road. At a time when the hippy movement was in full swing and rock 'n' roll was no longer played on the radio, they sold fifties rock 'n' roll records and memorabilia, as McLaren had become fascinated with the Teddy Boy look. Young people came to the shop from all over the country, fuelling a revival of interest in the period just as Elvis Presley was making a comeback.

Punk

By 1972 the shop had been redecorated and its name changed to Too Fast to Live, Too Young To Die reflecting a shift of interest from fifties revivalism to rockers and black urban culture. The duo stocked up on leather clothing adorned with zips and chains, t-shirts emblazoned with slogans and pornographic images as well as zoot suits worn by black Americans in the fifties.

Fetish

McLaren thinks things have gone too mainstream and turns to the underground, subverting politics with slogan designs as the shop name is changed to SEX and sells rubber S&M clothing, ripped clothes and t-shirts with pornographic text and images. Familiar as we now are with the images of sexual subcultures, it is difficult to convey the shocking affront this represented to the culture of mid-seventies Britain. Later, the name is changed again to Seditionaries on the back of McLaren’s declaration that you have to ‘seduce’ the people into revolt. The shop became the focal point of the Punk movement of the late seventies.

Pirates

Westwood’s Pirate influence begins with her technical research into historical and ethnic dress through museum collections, adopting and reinterpreting original cutting principles and applying them to contemporary dress. Westwood often cites this as her first collection as a true fashion designer because of this inquisitive approach not only to decoration, but to the actual crafting of the garments.

Uniforms and beyond

Ever subversive, Westwood’s influences are endless but further noteworthy are her references to traditional uniform, witches, ethnic inspirations and a reversion to traditional notions of femininity.

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.