Dame Vivienne Westwood’s son has called for his mother’s “dear friend” Julian Assange to be freed during a speech at the late designer’s memorial service.
In a tribute delivered from the pulpit at Southwark Cathedral, campaigner Joseph Corré praised his mother’s clothes, their relationship and her legacy. “For Vivienne, punk was a political idea, not a social one,” he said, before criticizing “false accusations by a corrupt establishment” which meant that, despite the family’s best efforts, Assange was not present at the service.
In a memorial service that was equal parts political statement and fashion cult, several hundred guests from both camps turned out to celebrate the life and political legacy of the designer, style icon and environmental activist who died on December 29 at the age of 81.
Among the speakers was former Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, who praised Westwood’s efforts to draw attention to the climate crisis and environmentalism.
Westwood’s second husband Andreas Kronthaler, whom she married in 1993 after meeting while teaching fashion design at the Vienna University of Applied Arts, where Kronthaler was a student, also spoke. Dressed in a Westwood suit, the designer and creative director of her company was visibly moved as she recalled their undercover endeavors in the late ’80s.
Helena Bonham Carter also delivered a eulogy in which she described herself as a “Westwood lover” and tried to goad Kate Moss into declaring a national Westwood dress day. The actress said she had “an obscene amount of clothes, which Vivienne wouldn’t like with her ‘buy less’ manifesto”.
She also recalled buying a Westwood pirate shirt at age 15 to look like Adam Ant, and said she always wore the designer’s flirty dresses (she owns seven) to red carpet events. “It’s instant body engineering, an aesthetic protest,” said Bonham Carter. They also meant that she could have “a full English breakfast” before dressing. “If it wasn’t for Vivienne, I’d be naked.”
The Reverend Andrew Nunn praised the turnout, revealing that King Charles and the Queen Consort were to attend “unexpectedly” (they are believed to have canceled for health reasons). Westwood designed her God Save the Queen war t-shirts in protest of the silver jubilee, but was later awarded an OBE.
In the second row, perhaps for the first time in their collective careers, were Vogue editor Edward Enninful, American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, designers Victoria Beckham and Marc Jacobs and Westwood muse Kate Moss. Also in attendance were Christina Hendricks in a tartan coat, Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave in camel jackets, Stormzy in a black suit and Richard E Grant wearing a fascinator.
Guests wore mostly black and tartan versions of Westwood’s creations, although a dress code – which was sent to everyone and was based on Westwood’s mantra ‘When in doubt, dress up!’ – closely followed by guests in mini-crinolines and clan tartans, which formed her most famous work.
Jonathan Ross wore a No Future blue jumpsuit from Westwood, Bob Geldof was in a beige Westwood tartan, Zandra Rhodes wore a red jumpsuit and leather jacket and Bonham Carter came in a red Westwood two-piece that she has worn before. collect her CBE.
The cathedral was adorned with Highland-inspired bouquets interspersed with mimosas. The service opened with Abba’s Slipping Through My Fingers played by Arnfield Brass, a band just over the river from the Derbyshire village of Tintwistle, where Westwood grew up.
Among the tributes and tributes, Nick Cave performed a moving rendition of Into My Arms on a grand piano, and Chrissie Hynde sang Raining In My heart, which she dedicated to her ‘friend’. Hynde met Westwood while working at her Kings Road shop, Sex, in the early 1970s.
Speaking in a filmed tribute months before her death, Westwood said activism was her priority and fashion was her therapy: “I just loved doing it,” she said. Corre also revealed that Westwood was working on a book before her death and that she had also become a follower of Taoism, although he added that the designer was “not a religious person”.
Often described as the fashion world’s fearsome kid, Westwood burst onto the fashion scene in the 1970s, dressing Adam Ant and the Sex Pistols in leather jackets, pirate shirts and safety pins. She later dabbled in catwalk and couture, creating bustles and corsets for red carpets and celebrities, later using her status to promote various causes.
Her clothes sometimes had activist slogans, and despite her involvement in the fashion week calendar, she often urged her customers to buy less, not more. In a 2017 collection he showed a unisex range of trousers, hats and capes in the hope that men and women would share the same clothes.
The memorial service was held at the start of London Fashion Week, which was dedicated to the late designer and her legacy. “Her work not only changed the fashion industry, birthing and defining punk, but also led to positive change worldwide,” said Davina Wedderburn of the British Fashion Council. “It is right to celebrate her.”
A small funeral was held on January 9 in Tintwistle. According to the Herald, the family decorated the church with Harris tweed pillows.
“He started a punk and finished a girl, without compromising an inch,” said Bonham Carter. “She was a true feminist.”