Vivienne Westwood: Paris bids farewell to the genius in Place de la Concorde
A tearful moment and understandably so, at the finale of Saturday’s Vivienne Westwood show, the first since the passing of Britain’s great couturier in December.
Several thousand fans thronging around the outside of Hotel de la Marine on Paris’ grandest square Place de la Concorde. Inside Jared Leto, Tracey Emin, Jean-Paul Gaultier and scores of Westwood aficionados took their seats on Louis XVI chairs under the gilded frescos.
Scores of guests even sat outside on the long loggia with views to the Eiffel Tower, as the show began outside in the chilly air.
Opening with a restoration damsel punk with a chiffon top on which was printed a beautiful photo of a smiling Westwood; paired with mini kilt, gothic leggings and towering platforms. With one look blending several epochs in Vivienne’s remarkable career – Anglomania, punk, rural fantasy and UK glamour.
Designed by Andreas Kronthaler, her widower and long-time designated successor, the moment grew into a tour de force collection.
In a co-ed show, Andreas referenced many Westwood eras, even incorporating old stock and recovered elements from previous seasons – linking this collection organically to Vivienne’s own designs.
Marvelous twin sets – of leotard and cardigan – made of Ancient Grecian figure prints; followed by baronial punk tailoring. Rock'n'roll restoration rebels in found fashion – where guys wore golden thigh-high pirates boots and gals liked wooden soled uber platforms. Delighting in a mash up of materials – prairie flower print skirts; jacquard coats; madras check waistcoats, matelassé Alpine flower blankets and English garden flower print platforms. And that was only one look.
High fashion cross dressing from the designer who more than any other dreamed up the whole notion in high fashion. All staged on a stupendous casting that included many loyal Westwoodians. From Mark Vanderloo and Arnaud Lemaire, to Farida Khelfa and the ineffably beautiful Estonian model Kätlin Aas, the latter looking faintly surprised – along with a delightful crinoline, she wore bright red lipstick and a small mock moustache.
“It was a beautiful funeral. A great collection and a fitting adieu to a great designer, who influenced everyone. Myself included since the first days of punk, Malcolm Mclaren and the Sex Pistols,” said Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Vivienne exploded onto the fashion firmament by dressing the Sex Pistols, opening the iconic boutique Sex on Kings Road, inventing punk fashion and being arrested for mocking the Queen’s golden anniversary. All in one year, 1975. Going on to reach Paris over a decade later and establish herself as a vitally important designer. So, it felt only right that the brand’s first show since her leaving should be smack in the center of Paris.
“For me the most important thing was to just continue. That was my aim. I knew I had to get through it. Keep the usual thing going. Work is good, it helps you deal with it. Sometimes something small triggers grief, even just a handkerchief. But we all go through it. Grief is part of life,” explained the noble Andreas.
“Vivienne touched so many people, and not just in fashion. So it helped to see all that depth, sympathy and love. She really meant what she said. I never met anyone so brave,” said Andreas, fighting back tears.
Referencing in this show Westwood’s 1982 Buffalo collection, and the idea of a noble savage coming down from the north and taking over the cities and London. A central part of Vivienne’s DNA, the young woman from Derbyshire, who came south to conquer fashion.
“This relation to nature and the country is what I wanted to show. I really made this collection out of bits and pieces. Even old things we had bought together in markets. Old blankets pulled out of wardrobes, or even 18th-century hangings that we gave new life to. There’s more fabric still in there,” he added, provoking a gentle laugh.
And bidding farewell on a Paris catwalk to the single most influential designer in British history.
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