A hundred years ago, Vivienne Westwood would have been a traitor; nowadays, we call her a national treasure. The story of the woman who collaged a safety pin through the Queen’s lip – as told by Ian Kelly in a biography comprised as much of her words as of his – is inextricably linked to that of a society fumbling for modernity and freedom of expression, and finding both in the most unexpected places.
One such place is the down-at-heel end of the King’s Road in Chelsea, where Westwood and her partner Malcolm McClaren set up shop in 1971 at number 430. First under the name Let It Rock and then successively as SEX, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, Seditionaries and Worlds End, the premises shifted shape in accordance with whatever trend these two pop-culture prophets felt was coming next.
The shop remains in Westwood’s name. It is currently being refurbished, but its arm and broadsword sign is still hanging, the thirteen-hour, backwards-running clock on its frontage a replica of the one McClaren installed inside. In the window, a sign explains the closure in Japanese – an emblem of Westwood’s