Vivienne Westwood 'Me Punk'

The Big Picture. 'Playing Cards' created by The Vivienne Foundation for Greenpeace 2024. One of 10. Estimate for complete set £30,000-50,000 at Christie's. 

Image: Christie's images Ltd. 

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All listed items in the Westwood charity auction were sold and most went for above expectations. Only nine of the 94 lots listed sold for within their estimates. Live and online sales realised a combined total of £754,488.  

“To sell both the personal wardrobe of the legendary Vivienne Westwood as well as to bring to fruition one of her final acts of activism by selling The Big Picture: Vivienne’s Playing Cards has been an extraordinary privilege," said Adrian Hume Sayer, director private & iconic collections, Christie’s.

This was always going to be a blockbuster event with regards to publicity, marketing and social media frenzy. Westwood devotees have always been loyal to the point of obsession. Even in the 1980s, Japanese tourists who had flown in from Tokyo on fashion missions would clamour outside Westwood’s World’s End store to pose for photos underneath the 13-hour clock which ticked backwards.

The two-part sale pulled in institutional buyers and new customers to Christie’s, with 33% of registered bidders Millennials and 9% Gen Z. The younger flock of fans are often more familiar with her work as an eco-activist and campaigner than as one of Britain’s finest and most influential designers. While the cash raised might not break records, it is hard to put a price on the attention from high-end global media and brand recognition with a 21st century crowd, who are au fait with eBay, but never heard of Christie’s.

Vivienne Westwood with male model

The Big Picture. 'Playing Cards' created by The Vivienne Foundation for Greenpeace 2024. One of 10. Estimate for complete set £30,000-50,000 at Christie's. 

Image: Christie's images Ltd 2024.

Christie’s King Street location drew 20,000 visitors to the free exhibition ahead of the sale. They flocked and queued to catch a glimpse of the 200 items, including shoes, frocks and jewellery. As they arrived at the venue, Westwood greeted them from a digital screen with a message from beyond the grave: “I want you to help me save the world, I can’t do it all on my own.”

Westwood’s signed ‘Playing Cards’, a set of personalised cards, including an image of Julian Assange with the words True Punk emblazoned across it, made £37,800, which will be donated to Greenpeace. The designer was an early and consistent supporter of the Wikileaks co-founder. She created the wedding attire for Assange when he married fiancée Stella Moris in Belmarsh Prison in 2022. Westwood did a dress for her and a kilt for him.

Taupe corset gown by Vivienne Westwood

Corset gown of taupe silk taffeta from Westwood's 'Dressed to scale' collection. Autumn/winter 1998/99 (lot 30), estimated £5000–8000 at Christie's. 

Image: Christie's images Ltd 2024 

“My clothes have a story,” said a Westwood quote printed on a wall at Christie’s. “They have an identity. They have a character and a purpose. That’s why they have become classics. Because they keep on telling a story. They are still telling it.”

She was right about that and will possibly be proved correct about others. A corseted, taffeta gown from AW98 worn by Westwood to an event at the Victoria and Albert Museum went for way beyond its estimate of £5000-8000. It eventually sold for £32,760.