Long live the Queen of Punk – As Dame Vivienne Westwood took her curtain call with her army of models down the runway, the privilege of witnessing a living legend in action proved to be rather overwhelming. The Red Label fall/winter collection is arguably one of Westwood’s finest works in recent years. We’ve all heard her cause for going “green”, especially her efforts to raise awareness about climate change. Whilst the narrative might have seen better days in previous seasons, today the message felt fresh and alive with a show that was alluded to as being autobiographical.
“The girl who wears Red Label – I want to tell you about her, she’s a bit like me. She was lucky enough to be born in the country and she moved with her family to London when she was 17. She knows the names of all the trees and she’s always been a reader. Since she’s been in London she’s gone to the museums all the time. She’s an art lover and she thinks culture is very, very important. If we have true culture we would not be in the situation we’re in. Culture has been replaced by consumption – which is quite a different thing.” Truer words have never been spoken in a press release, and if Dame Westwood had indeed written those words personally, maybe every future press release should be relayed in first person.
The show itself was electric. There was no shortage of the Westwood leftist attitude that we’ve come to know and love. The discourse around consumption felt rather pointed through the caricature of hyper-consumerists, especially in the first few looks. Classic Teddy Girl suiting was embellished with novelty trinkets symbolising the seasonal wants. Grace Bol in oversized camo coat seemed especially predatory, like a poacher in the African safari who’s in for the kill. Socks had the word “chaos” printed on them, whilst meme-worthy cats were plastered on tote bags that mock the ubiquitous high street variety. And depending on how sold you were on the show, the stark black line that ran down the center of the runway coupled with the context of staging a show in the Science Museum hinted at the models akin to consumerist robots on autopilot, towing the line of capitalism with their in-built sensors. Astutely, she provided some relief from the full-on social commentary with iconic looks from her archive. All time favourites like the corseted regalia and the grungy plaid offered some respite.
It all seemed a bit much to take in, but if anyone were to have enough credence to pull it off it would be Vivienne Westwood. She’s holding no prisoners with her cause to “vote green”, and this is her telling nicely, a privilege coming from a lady who can basically do whatever she wants.