Vivienne Westwood (British, b. 1941). Shoes, autumn/winter 1990. Hot pink crocodile-embossed patent leather. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Millia Davenport and Zipporah Fleisher Fund, 2006 (2006.14a, b).
A strategy of épater les bourgeois has informed much of Vivienne Westwood’s career. While many of her early collections were directly associated with the incendiary margins of street style and the London club scene, she also incorporated references to the louche world of the sex trade. The tongue-in-cheek coquettishness seen in her mini-crinis and padded bum skirts is amplified when worn with her signature high-heeled, platform-soled pumps. Originally designed in collaboration with the shoemaker Patrick Cox, the design was broadcast internationally when the model Naomi Campbell stumbled on the catwalk wearing a pair in purple. The Museum’s pair were designed for Westwood’s “Portrait” collection, and were worn by Jibby Beane, a former shop assistant and unofficial house model of Westwood’s. Beane met Westwood in the restrooms of the Designer and Decorators Exhibition in London in 1993. When they met, Beane, an ebullient bottle-blonde of the same age as Westwood, had just left a genteel marriage in suburbia. Tall and voluptuous, Beane became the mature embodiment of Westwood’s fashions. As Jane Mulvagh, author of Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life, has noted, “Her message was that life after fifty could be sexy and fun dressed in Westwood.”