“Vivienne and I”: Fredrik Robertsson on his enduring love for Vivienne Westwood

By Anna Clarke

Photo: Vanessa Tryde

Following the legendary British designer's memorial, one of her biggest fans, Fredrik Robertsson, remembers what her – and her designs – meant to him

I first started to tentatively discover fashion when I was 15. I had saved up a little bit of money, and Vivienne Westwood was the first designer that I started buying. It was her ready-to-wear, of course, but I was just so in awe of everything that she had done, her legacy and the punk movement – and just generally expressing yourself. There were no boundaries with her.


As a young gay guy, who loves expressing himself, it was so special to be able to walk into a shop where everything was OK and accepted. She was making skirts for men at a time when there wasn’t yet a discussion being had about gender fluidity. I would walk into her shop and think, “wow, someone actually designed this for guys – how cool.”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

I was very obsessed with her. And every time I visited London with my family as a teenager, and later as an adult, her shop on London’s Conduit Street was the first, and most important, stop of the trip. I never went to London without visiting it and buying something. I even got her orbit logo tattooed on my wrist (it's so royal and regal) that way I could see it whatever I was doing. I also secretly hoped that if I got it done, I would get a discount in her store – which I actually did!

And from there, my relationship with her clothes evolved when I started buying couture. I went into discussion with the design team and they started making me one-of-a-kind pieces, going through the archives. And just having so much fun creating iconic pieces, but reproducing them in a way that felt modern.

Photo: Vanessa Tryde

Photo: Vanessa Tryde

Photo: Vanessa Tryde

My favourite piece that they reproduced was her very famous beige dress, with two painted breasts and a painted vagina. We created one that was black silk taffeta, with two painted breasts and a penis in white instead. I wore it to a Givenchy couture show in Paris and everyone was like, “Oh my god.” You can wear designs which get people all rattled up and provoked; there's something about her designs that yes, it gets people's attention, but it doesn't scream in that kind of way. It’s a fine line. There's always something classy and refined about it, it's not a costume party – it's high fashion.

I met her a few times. The first time I met her, I got a bit starstruck. I was at her fashion show in Paris with a very famous French gay porn star called François Sagat. He had made a T-shirt of his naked body, so his hairy chest with his tattoos and his back. We both wore the T-shirt, I paired mine with my Westwood kilt. We went backstage at the show and Vivienne walked up to me and grabbed my T-shirt and asked, “How is this made?" And I said, "Well, he made it – it's his body". And she's like, "Oh my God, I can see that, but the print is so good. The quality is amazing."

Photo: Getty

Even at her own fashion show, when everybody wanted to talk to her backstage, and there was press everywhere, she was more concerned with the quality of a T-shirt. And it just goes to show what kind of person she was, very detail oriented. You could just tell that she really, really cared about everything her brand put out, every detail. There was so much passion in her eyes.

To her funeral in London I, of course, wore Westwood – a shirt dress, made from silk black taffeta, draped in the front and at the back it says ‘God save the Queen’ in the old Sex Pistols print. The legacy she leaves is a mixture of a few different things. It's the freedom to express yourself and to be who you are, she created a space where there are no rules and you have a voice. She really was one of the greatest designers of our generation in our time. It’s the loss of something much bigger than just her. It feels like the end of an era.