Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood’s last request was for her funeral at a run-down church in her working class Derbyshire hometown to be decorated with £45,000 of tartan
Dame Vivienne Westwood‘s last request before her death was that her funeral in her local Derbyshire church be decorated with tartan worth £45,000 in an intimate ceremony for family only.
The punk icon, who died aged 81, on December 29, was laid to rest in her home town of Tintwhistle, where she grew up.
Mark Greig and his wife Julie, of Harris Tweed Scotland, were asked if they would help fulfil the fashion designer’s last request which was for 45 metres of Harris Tweed cloth to be used to decorate the church.
Dame Vivienne told her closest friend, the British designer Jeff Banks, that she wanted the church where her funeral service was to be held to be swathed in her beloved MacLeod tartan Harris Tweed, which she used in several of her collections.
Dame Vivienne Westwood died peacefully at the age of 81 on December 29, before her funeral was held earlier this month
Christ Church in Tintwistle, Derbyshire, was decorated with 45m of tartan for Dame Vivienne’s private funeral
The church was decorated with reams of the fabric, before some of it was quietly smuggled away by locals who wanted a souvenir of their hometown hero.
Dame Vivienne is credited with changing the fashion world forever as she burst onto the scene with her punk clothing and unique talent – and often used tartan in her work.
Mr and Mrs Greig told how they drove from their home in Bothwell, Lanarkshire to Burnley in Lancashire to hand deliver the fabric after a courier firm let them down.
They received an email on Hogmanay from Mr Banks’ PA, who said she was urgently trying to source Harris Tweed for the service, which was held earlier this month.
Mr Greig said: ‘That then progressed to this wonderful story that unfolded.
‘Vivienne Westwood’s last request was that she had a small, family funeral.
‘It wasn’t to be lavish, it wasn’t to be put all over the press, it was for family only in a small, run-down church.
‘She wanted the church to be spruced up in her favourite Harris Tweed.’
The firm in Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, is run independently from Harris Tweed, who allow the couple to use their brand name.
Around £45,000 was spent decorating Christ Church, in the village where Vivienne Westwood grew up.
The fabric was draped along the upper levels of the church with Harris Tweed cushions placed on pews for close family.
MacLeod tartan used in the Vivienne Westwood Autumn/winter 2014/15 Collection
The Vivienne Foundation, a not-for-profit company founded by Dame Vivienne, her sons and grand-daughter in late 2022, will launch next year to ‘honour, protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design and activism’
Paloma Faith pictured in MacLeod tartan in 2014, wearing an outfit designed by Dame Vivienne
Floral tributes were lain outside a south London house belonging to British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood in the days after her death
A well-wisher leaves flowers outside British designer Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End store in Chelsea, west London on December 30, 2022
At the end of each pew were dried flowers tied up in bows with the tweed.
Mr Greig said: ‘The really interesting part about it… there are hundreds of different tweeds to choose from but it had to be the MacLeod tartan.
‘That was Vivienne Westwood’s favourite Harris Tweed.
‘You normally have to buy Harris Tweed fabric from the mills in Harris, it’s not freely available, particularly 45 metres of it, which is a lot of fabric.
‘They came to us on the Saturday and everywhere was shut.
‘No one was answering the phone because it’s Hogmanay and it’s Scotland and our phone is pretty much always on.
‘Unfortunately we don’t keep huge stocks of Harris Tweed because there are so many, that it’s impossible to keep rolls and rolls,’ he said.
‘By sheer luck we had a full roll of Macleod Harris Tweed fabric.’
The couple then had to work out the fastest way to get the fabric delivered to the church.
They booked a specialised courier to transport it because of the huge length and weight but the company failed to arrive.
Mr Greig said: ‘The alarm bells started ringing.
‘We were in charge of providing the fabric to Vivienne Westwood’s funeral and they needed that fabric by Friday.
‘We made the decision that we had to personally deliver the fabric.’
Vivienne Westwood’s family were ‘blown away’ by their efforts to make sure the designer’s wishes were fulfilled.
Mr Greig said: ‘Alison, Jeff Banks’ PA lived in Burnley and we drove there to hand deliver the roll of fabric.
‘If we had had to jump on a plane, that’s what we would have done.
‘They got into the church the following week to dress the church up.
‘I believe there was a cost of around £45,000 to decorate the church the way she wanted.’
He said his wife received a thank you letter from Jeff Banks and a Vivienne Westwood necklace after the funeral.
Mr Greig said: ‘He said she would have loved the service and it was her favourite Harris Tweed.’
Jeff Banks, who launched BBC fashion show The Clothes Show in 1986, revealed that the cushions were pinched by locals after the service.
Mr Greig added: ‘They wanted to leave the cushions in the church so they could be there for ever but the locals got wind of it and decided they wanted a wee bit of Vivienne.
‘The cushions all went for a walk but the Harris Tweed was recycled and given to a fashion college.
‘We provide a lot of Harris Tweed world-wide but in the grand scheme of things we are just a small business.
‘We treated it like any other order that we get but obviously this was very, very special.’
Vivienne Isabel Swire was born on April 8, 1941, in Tintwistle, Derbyshire, the eldest of three children to working-class parents who encouraged their children to be creative.
By her early teens, she was taking apart second-hand clothes from markets to better understand the cut and construction, and had an extraordinary belief in her innate talent.
‘Honestly,’ she once said, ‘at the age of five I could have made a pair of shoes.’
The designer died at the age of 81 ‘peacefully, and surrounded by her family’ in London’s Clapham, her representative said.
In a statement, her husband and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler said: ‘I will continue with Vivienne in my heart.
‘We have been working until the end and she has given me plenty of things to get on with. Thank you darling.
The statement from her representatives added: ‘Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better.
‘She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.’
It also said that The Vivienne Foundation, a not-for-profit company founded by Dame Vivienne, her sons and grand-daughter in late 2022, will launch next year to ‘honour, protect and continue the legacy of Vivienne’s life, design and activism’.