A portrait of a marriage was presented at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood fashion show in Paris on Saturday, and it wasn’t a conventional one. There were brides wearing ruffled white gowns with thigh-high lace-up boots, and nuns’ habits refashioned in chiffon, and models wearing Boudicca breast plates. There were also three young male podium dancers from Leeds on the catwalk who had pink circles scribbled on their faces, and were voguing with wild abandon.
The show was a “homage”, Kronthaler said, to Westwood, his wife of more than 25 years. In a love letter distributed to guests, he described the designer as “my collaborator, my friend and partner, my teacher and of course as my muse”, and explained that he had revisited and rethought many of her most famous creations for the collection.
So there were high heels with a ridge of spikes running along the back, in the manner of the shoes sold at her Sex boutique in the 1970s, and tweed dresses rethinking her 1985 “mini-crini” collection. There were also towering platform heels reminiscent of those Naomi Campbell famously took a tumble in on Westwood’s catwalk in 1993 (25 years later, some things don’t change: a model stumbled in their platform shoes on Saturday, too, and recovered heroically).
The show was also notable for its adherence to one of the autumn/winter 2018 season’s most striking trends: the use of head and, in some cases, entire face coverings, which has been seen throughout the shows, today in the form of turbans, flowing scarves and wide-brimmed hats.
The tribute came at an apt time for the Westwood brand, which is enjoying fresh acclaim among a new generation of British designers who rightly revere the grande dame of punk for her pioneering exploration of protest fashion and unisex design.
Her DIY spirit also resonates with students facing arts cuts in the age of austerity. Two such designers, Charles Jeffrey, who won the award for British emerging talent – menswear at the fashion awards in December, and Matty Bovan, who has been tipped as a future star of British fashion, attended the show. Jeffrey sat in the front row, while Bovan strutted down the catwalk in a floral catsuit.
Backstage, wearing a tubular dress of Kronthaler’s creation, with extraordinary red make-up scrawled across her eyes, Westwood said that the collection “is, I think, the best thing we’ve ever done”. She clarified: “I say ‘we’ even though, thankfully for me, Andreas is now doing the couture line, but nevertheless it’s definitely inspired by me and I notice some of the things and it’s just absolutely fantastic.” Of the differences in their approach to design, she said: “Andreas is a bit more couture than me. I’m more street.
“Andreas is the most very, very special person,” she continued. “I met him when he was a student and straight away I knew, this man was a, kind of, world-beater.”
As for her fashion legacy, and her influence on young British designers, Westwood admitted that she “didn’t know who any of the young designers were, although I just met one of them, Matty”, but said her past work has “obviously had a lot of influence”.The Westwood brand, she admitted, as models wearing latex ruffles twirled around the frenetic backstage area, was not for everyone: “We sell to people who really want to dress up, that’s all.”
For his part, Kronthaler said the time felt right for a tribute to his wife because “it feels like I’m getting to the end of a cycle, paying homage, saying something to her that I have never really done before, because she is someone who never looks back”.
It was a fitting celebration of Westwood and Kronthaler, a gloriously unconventional couple.
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