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Pele and Vivienne Westwood – Innovators Lost

Pele and Vivienne Westwood - Innovators Lost

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

The loss of Pele and Vivienne Westwood, two giants of innovation in their respective fields, marks a sad end to 2022. But both left legacies that can inspire us as we navigate a likely challenging New Year.

Humble Beginnings: Both rose from humble beginnings to become national and international institutions. Pele was an artist with a football, Westwood with fabric and design. Both were resilient, multifaceted, creative, and had the courage to challenge the status quo. Pele famously honed his football skills by kicking around grapefruits in desperately poor neighborhood. Westwood originated from humble British working-class origins, where her parents were factory and mill workers.

Pele was a complete footballer, talented with head, foot and mind. He was both creative and practical, and turned football into an art form. A graceful embodiment of the beautiful game, he invented moves, and developed techniques and skills that not only entertained, but that also created a new technical platform for future masters such as Cruyff, Neymar and Messi. But he was also extremely successful, winning three world cups, and scoring over 700 goals for club and country. Furthermore, he was a great ambassador for Brazil and for football. But perhaps most important of all, he was an inspiration to countless youngsters. He embodied that hard work, hard earned skill, a creative mindset and a passionate work ethic could forge a path from poverty to success. A model that inspired many in sports and beyond.

Westwood was similarly both skilled and creatively fearless. She emerged as part of the leading edge of the punk scene in the UK, closely entwined with Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols. But after splitting with McLaren, she forged her own unique and highly successful path. She blended historical materials and fashion references with post-punk individualism to create emergent, maverick designs. Designs that somewhat ironically mainstreamed and embodied British eccentricity, but that also held global appeal.  Like Pele, she was a leader who saw things before anyone else in her field, and ultimately, as the first Dame of Punk, turned that vision into both financial and social success.

Nobody lives forever, and few get to reach the heights of Pele or Westwood. But we can all hopefully learn a little from them. But were leaders, unafraid to follow their own vision. Both were resilient, with the courage and belief to overcame hardship and challenges. Both blended existing norms in new ways to create new, emergent forms. They didn’t just stand on, but rose above, the shoulders of giants. Both are missed, but both live on both in the legacy and lessons they leave

Published simultaneously on LinkedIn

Image credit: Unsplash

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