Worlds End” is the name of the shop on London’s King’s Road 430, sometimes with an apostrophe, sometimes without. The last generation of the 1970s not only believed that the world ends here (“World’s End”), but that all worlds end here (“Worlds End”). Of course, from the end of time, one can only look backwards. And really: The hands of the man-sized clock above the shop window, which shows 13 hours, run counterclockwise. A strange symbol for the forward-thrashing style that started here. And a fitting sign for a woman working against her time.
Fashion was predetermined for this designer. Her mother, working-class daughter Dora Ball, really met her father when, in December 1938, she caught the bus to the Derbyshire town of Glossop to buy fabric for a new dance dress. Gordon Swire, a greengrocer and four years older than her, approached her on the street, took her to the bus stop and immediately gave her the first kiss. Their first daughter, Vivienne Isabel Swire, was born on April 8, 1941 in Tintwistle near Manchester, in the spinning and weaving region. London experienced heavy air raids on the night of her birth. The industrial city of Manchester was also severely damaged by the Germans. The girl was born with fashion and destruction. How could this war child not have invented punk fashion?
If not her, who?
She was young and didn’t need money. She had a son, Ben, with her first husband, Derek Westwood. But she didn’t like the good life as a primary school teacher. From Westwood she kept only the name. She left him for fickle artist-type Malcolm McLaren, “the bum,” as her mother called him. In 1967 they had their son Joseph, who later started his own fashion career as the founder of the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. In November 1971, the young mother of two children opened the crooked shop with her partner McLaren. At first they called it “Let it rock” – the Beatles’ “Let It Be” turned into the future. Since 1973 the business was called “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die”, since 1974 then “SEX”, in capital letters, as a foreshadowing of the Sex Pistols that were just forming, since December 1976 “Seditionaries” (“rebels”) and finally since 1980 “World’s End”. That’s how the no longer promising eighties began.
In the shop: an odd woman and a strange man who happily twirled fabrics, colors and shapes. Malcolm McLaren, a genius stylist, was the manager of the Sex Pistols. And Vivienne Westwood, who sewed as well as her mother, used her wild imagination to turn everything into a trend. This is how the quaint odds and ends store at the then dingy end of King’s Road became the epicenter of punk.
British fashion was a fixed system in the tradition-oriented class society. Only a strong social movement could break this up. Of course, Mary Quant with her miniskirts, modern boutiques like Biba, the fresh spirit of Carnaby Street and the “Swinging Sixties” had already brought the esprit of the Parisian prêt-à-porter to London. But the real heresy of formlessness needed a strong character.
Vivienne Westwood invented the bondage style with straps around the body and paralyzed the traffic with women in latex suits. She printed T-shirts with bare breasts, with anti-phrases (“Only Anarchists are Pretty”), with combined swastikas and Christ crosses. She garnished the chemises with sewn-on chicken bones, cut mini leather ties that could be zipped open so that a pin-up girl peeked out. Hatred of the establishment spurted out of every buttonhole. The public marveled at the furor of the street. The trickle-down effect, i.e. Paris dictating fashion from above, has been replaced by the bubble-up. Now the fashion came from below: In the late 1970s in England and finally in the early 1980s in the last small German town, punks sat everywhere on the sidewalks, much more peaceful and friendlier than their death-defying look would have you believe.