Monday afternoon’s tube strike provided the predicted scenes of chaos on the London streets – but the fashion crowd were still out in force for the last day of London fashion week men’s. The reason? The return of one of their own: 75-year-old Dame Vivienne Westwood, a punk national treasure, global brand and latterday environmental campaigner all at once. This was her debut at the London men’s shows.
The location may have changed, but there were all the elements that the front row would be familiar with. Across designs for men and women created by Westwood and her designer partner Andreas Kronthaler, the punk heritage was there in mohair pieces, rips and tears, and a DIY aesthetic that reworked a plastic knife into an earring.
Environmentalism and politics, which have seemed to dominate Westwood’s thoughts over the past decade or so, were also plain to see. The collection was titled Ecotricity. The show notes read: “What’s good for the planet is good for the economy/what’s bad for the planet is bad for the economy.” Strings worn as belts and handmade paper crowns felt like something that might have been worn by an off-grid community. Some models’ clothes also had patches with anti-climate change slogans.
Westwood’s non-fashion preoccupations aside, the brand in her name is now a global business, with a turnover of £33.8m in 2015. Sure, there were more edgy things, such as dresses for men and tight Lurex leggings, but the majority of the collection will be gratefully received by Westwood’s large and loyal fanbase. There was sharp tailoring, smart outerwear and reliably glamorous party dresses. Westwood understandably remains a red carpet favourite: the night before this show, the Game of Thrones actor Gwendoline Christie wore Westwood at the Golden Globes.
With a collection showing all the confidence of someone who has been designing for five decades, Westwood was greeted with extended applause for her finale. She walked it surrounded by tons of models with a huge bouquet of flowers, in platform heels and a tear in her eye. Even punk pioneers out to save the world get emotional sometimes.
Westwood closed four days of shows in London in which younger designers – Grace Wales Bonner, Martine Rose, Craig Green, Christopher Shannon – have been the highlights. The focus now shifts to Milan. Prada, the key show of the schedule, if not the season, unveils its autumn/winter collection on Sunday night.
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