AdvertisementFrom pioneering punk to designing Carrie Bradshaw's wedding dress, over the last 40-odd years Dame Vivienne Westwood has been at the cutting edge of British style. The designer is one of the UK's most famous faces, not just for her involvement in fashion but for her political activism and outspoken nature.

It was on meeting Malcolm McLaren that this former schoolteacher got involved in the world of art and fashion. When McLaren opened a shop on the King's Road, Westwood helped him to create the clothing that was sold first to Teddy Boys and later to those involved in the emerging punk movement. McLaren was, by this time, manager of The Sex Pistols, who wore clothing designed by Westwood and McLaren and helped raise their profile.

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As the 80s approached, Westwood continued to make a stir in the world of fashion and showed her first full scale catwalk collection in 1981. The theme was Pirates, which forshadowed what was to come in the future. Westwood is not a slave to trends, and even now it's easy to recognise her work from the key elements that so many pieces contain. The buckled pirate boot, the corseted bodice, tartan, asymmetric draping, punk details, hearts and the 'orb' emblem are all synonymous with Vivienne Westwood. Despite her anarchic punk background, many of her bestselling pieces now are incredibly romantic, with drapes of silk and hidden boning shaping the silhouette, creating voluptuous curves on even the slimmest models.

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In the past 20 years, Westwood has built her business into an empire, with numerous womenswear and menswear collections, jewellery and accessories, fragrances, and dozens of collaborations with partners including Royal Ascot, Melissa footwear, Comic Relief, Yoox.com and Brintons Carpets.

Recent ad campaigns have featured Pamela Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Luke Worrall and (of course) Dame Vivienne herself. She's dressed Helena Bonham Carter for the BAFTAs, Helen Mirren for the Oscars and Andrea Riseborough for the Golden Globes. On Sunday night, three high profile stars chose Vivienne Westwood for the BAFTA awards.

The latest addition to the Vivienne Westwood stable is Cheeky Alice fragrance, "the sexier older sister" of the much-loved Naughty Alice.

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[purple shoes pic: Hectorthebat]