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British punk queen, activist Vivienne Westwood dies at 81

Doyenne of British design Vivienne Westwood, who melded music and fashion together to help define punk and brought rebellious politics to the catwalk, has died aged 81.

“Vivienne Westwood died today, peacefully and surrounded by her family, in Clapham, South London. The world needs people like Vivienne to make a change for the better,” her fashion label’s Twitter account said on Thursday.

In a statement quoted by the PA news agency, her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: “We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you darling.”

Leading tributes, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum described Westwood as a “true revolutionary and rebellious force in fashion”, while Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said she had been a “towering figure”.

“Her punk style rewrote the rule book in the 1970s and (she) was widely admired for how she stayed true to her own values throughout her life,” she wrote on Twitter.

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Political activist

Westwood’s political activism became ever more pronounced in later years, advocating against arbitrary detention, nuclear weapons and especially supporting environmental causes and groups like Greenpeace.

But critics have pointed out that Westwood hardly stuck to the pledges in the “Climate Revolution Charter” she issued during her 2013-14 fall-winter collection.

Advocacy group Remake gave her brand a failing score of 21 out of 100 on its sustainability index.

Few, however, could deny that she brought a unique form of engagement and humanity into the world of fashion.

She was also a staunch supporter of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, protesting on his behalf and even designing his wife’s dress for their wedding at Belmarsh prison outside London earlier this year.

WikiLeaks tweeted news of Westwood’s death along with side-by-side photos of her and Assange wearing the same Westwood-designed T-shirt, adding “Rest in Power”.

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