Vivienne Westwood: Ain't nothing like a Dame...

Vivienne Westwood brought the spirit of punk back to London Fashion Week. And she incited a riot of creativity among the new generation of rebels, says Susannah Frankel

It was apposite that Vivienne Westwood showed her Red Label collection in London last week for the first time in more than a decade. If anything gives coherence to a jam-packed schedule of entirely disparate aesthetics, it is the debt owed to this designer.

Today, Westwood is as much a part of the establishment as her title – it's Dame Vivienne Westwood, please – might suggest. Yet the procession of models gathered from all walks of life and bearing political messages – "Fair Trial, My Arse" on a pair of orange Latex knickers, for example – also proved that this designer remains both original and more than a little rebellious. Small wonder, then, that she is so influential. On the international stage, the audacity of John Galliano, the assertiveness of McQueen and everything about Marc Jacobs, from his "it"-appeal ankle boots upwards, are all informed by this designer. And a new generation of London-based talent is, too.

Westwood said in this newspaper last week: "Punk was just a marketing tool in the end, which is fine, but it's absolutely not right that we were destroying the establishment or even really attacking it in any way." And so, more than a few designers offered up clothing that paid lip service to her archive, from the mini-crini (Luella) to tartan (House of Holland) and from bondage trousers and skirts (Noki) to the type of overblown, demi-couture gowns that may have their roots in times long gone, but which have been upheld by this designer more consistently than any other (Giles).

More broadly, the proudly individual spirit that characterises Westwood's work – and is as quintessentially British as the garments themselves – was very much in evidence. The best of London Fashion Week saw the welcome return of clothes for heroes, for young people – and not just skinny, blonde young people – who would rather stand out in the crowd than disappear into it.

At times, it was all about energy. There was really nothing more to Henry Holland's offering than that. Here were the simplest clothes – mini-kilts, signature sloganeering T-shirts and leggings made from the sort of material that is more often the preserve of Fifties bedspreads, only in jewel-bright colours – all styled by a group of close friends who live, work and play together, and it felt that way. It sounds obvious, but the fact that fashion is supposed to be fun is too often ignored, and this Highland Fling seen through the eyes of East London's bright young things was a riot from start to finish.

Luella Bartley was another designer who started out making clothes with her mates in mind; in particular, re-working traditional garments such as jodhpurs and riding jackets to incorporate a punky edge. This time, crimped, waist-length hair, black lipstick and scary fairy dresses were the order of the day for Luella and co. The ultra-short, full skirts looked sweet and sassy in gingham, denim, Lurex and lace, and teamed with relentlessly brown, if not entirely sensible, shoes.

Ann-Sofie Back's collection was lovely, almost in spite of the designer's love affair with the fashion faux pas – from nasty fabrics to visible panty lines. Here, a perfectly pretty vest was finished with lacy sleeves that turned out to be gussets, and entire skirts were made out of the type of underwear that is usually found at Ann Summers. Idiosyncrasies aside, great denim, elegant oversized overcoats and a red silk dress that could find its way on to a red carpet (Ann-Sofie Back In Red Carpet Shock!) made for impressive viewing.

Of all the girl gangs on the schedule this season, it was Emma Cook and her team that truly shone. Cook, who names her collections after a fantasy friend called Susan, created Lonesome Susie for autumn/winter '08. She looked brilliant in country-and-western style fringing, tie-dyed latex and hand-made lace indebted, as always, to the Art Deco style. Cook hails from Glossop, which is also Vivienne Westwood's home town; one can only assume there must be something in the water. A nostalgic interest in hand-worked embellishment and the reinvention of old-fashioned craft forms, often from the Seventies, is fused with an ultra-confident and sexy aesthetic which any young woman worth her fashion credentials would love to wear.

Over three seasons, Christopher Kane has proved himself man enough to live up to the hype that sprung up around his name even before his first collection was shown. Part of the appeal of his work has been the clarity of vision – his ability to take a single idea and explore it to the full. This time, he had moved on, presenting everything from knitwear to gauzy flapper dresses decorated with paillettes – the new sequins – and even, given that this is the prince of body-conscious dressing, a comparatively austere cape. The superb attention to hand-finishing that characterised previous collections was still there, but this was a collection with a broader commercial appeal.

That other king-of-cling, Marios Schwab, changed direction, too – although a sequence of mid-length layered sheath dresses patterned with everything from cracked glass to William Morris wallpaper looked somewhat tortured, albeit technically accomplished. This was intentional; Schwab was inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", "the story of a nameless woman driven mad by enforced confinement in an attic".

Giles Deacon, meanwhile, remains the most polished designer on the London schedule and one whose talent is most likely to hold its own on a world stage. For A/W '08, summer's saccharine-sweet palette and adornment had given way to a more hard-edged glamour that harked back to the glory days of Studio 54. For the woman with a yearning to dress to impress, this is the place to shop. Beautifully crafted demi-couture gowns looked dramatic in rich brocades, silks, satins and suede in Valentino red – perhaps Mr Deacon has identified a gap in the market? – and more subtle hues of plum, grey and a medley of deep greens.

No one could ever accuse Gareth Pugh of understatement, although here, too, amid the fetish-inspired pieces and armoured shoulders – for which we can again thank Westwood – were real clothes. This is a designer who thinks nothing of sending out larger-than-lifesize black-rubber rabbit suits, and for whom the gimp mask appears to be more integral to the metropolitan wardrobe than, say, a pair of well-cut jeans. Yet Pugh offered up fine, more obviously wearable pieces for the first time.

Also at London Fashion Week, Louise Goldin developed her intricately crafted knitwear, this time giving the world a suitably glamorous "futuristic Eskimo". Noki's wildly deconstructed vision looked better than ever, albeit less subversive – shown as it was this time on women as opposed to transvestites. Meanwhile, Peter Jensen dedicated his collection to Candice-Marie, Alison Steadman's character in Mike Leigh's Nuts In May – think copious knitwear and outdoorsy fabrics, including waxed cotton, moleskin and a particularly fetching skirt made out of a survival blanket.

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
books
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss