Vivienne Westwood has made a habit of using her fashion shows as a platform for activism. This season, she was championing two related causes. On the runway she paid homage to Venice, a city that, perhaps due to climate change, is sinking even faster than it was before. Venice is a good theme for Westwood—her shows tend to have a certain carnival atmosphere in their mix of the decadent and the louche. You’d have expected a Vivienne Westwood Save Venice! collection to feature quite a few of her signature evening dresses, with their bouffant skirts and baroque swirls of sculptural draping but instead of cocktail looks, she emphasized rather plainspoken daywear silhouettes, shown on male as well as female models, in a gesture that read less political than as an homage to the Venetian tradition of the masque. The cross-dressing theme was echoed as well in the array of tailored items, in particular suits that looked oversize and mannish, with trousers cut to appear as though they’d been cinched up spontaneously to fit a woman’s smaller frame. That was one of Westwood’s dramatic flourishes; others included poufed sleeves and hardware and crystal embellishment sewn onto jackets. Westwood made a few very spectacular pieces, such as the extra-long coats worn high overhead and a bodysuit of sequin-dripping net that conjured a very fancy birdcage. Of course those looks had quite an impact on the runway.
What is always clear at a Vivienne Westwood show, despite the reliable spectacle, is exactly what has ensured the designer’s longevity: wearability. The ruffled-hem wrap dresses; the sexy oversized tailoring; and the embroidered skirt and sweater combos had serious appeal. These are clothes that time and time again highlight the beauty of the female form, made by a woman who knows exactly the areas that women want ( and not) !