Punk pioneer mellows with designs to flatter a good figure

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There's nothing like a dame, especially when it comes to creating atmosphere. That's what Dame Vivienne Westwood has proved season after season and her Red Label show at London Fashion Week yesterday was no different.

From the slightly madcap soundtrack to the political agenda – this time she was highlighting the work of the human rights charity Reprieve – and the Westwood groupies who always make up part of the audience, they are altogether more rambunctious in tone than most shows.

And not only can the British designer, who made her name as the pioneer of punk fashion in the Seventies, be relied upon to deliver a lively experience; her distinctive sartorial trademarks always appear.

Accordingly, her spring/summer 2011 collection featured pencil skirts and tailored jackets with balloon sleeves, structured ruched skirts, checked fabrics and brocades, pencil dresses with cowl-detail busts, and draped jersey dresses galore. The overall tone was slightly prettier and softer than it sometimes is, with draped and shirt-style dresses in dusty pink, flower-printed jersey, and pencil shifts with flamenco-influenced rows of frills at the shoulders.

Westwood's dresses are known for making the most of an hourglass figure, or creating the illusion of one, and shimmering blue fabrics put a showstopping twist on her famously flattering shape.

Yesterday's shows saw several other designers sticking to their signature aesthetics, one of whom was Julien Macdonald. No one could accuse the Welsh designer behind many memorably risqué red-carpet dresses of being demure or too concerned with modesty.

Originally known for his knitwear skills, Macdonald's second outfit – shown in the grand surroundings of the Banqueting House in Whitehall – was a microscopically skimpy and impressively revealing dress made from twisted and roped skeins of white yarn. Other small dresses that one might not actually be able to see with the naked eye from the back row followed, many in a babydoll or A-line shape.

Dresses in fine matte silk and a cut-out flower effect came in shades of orange, pale parchment, primrose, cream and palest grey-violet. There was a lingerie feel to many of the mini-dresses in peach and nude shades, and to floor-length evening gowns with lace trims and a filmy negligee look.

Any concerns about accidentally revealing too much cleavage or being unable to wear underwear with a dress are clearly too mundane for the Britain's Next Top Model judge's customers, and it's unlikely that a "monokini" – if indeed that was what it was – adorned with black lace, crystals and pleated silk frills was actually intended for entering a swimming pool.

By contrast, the vision presented by the British designer Margaret Howell earlier in the day was altogether more laid back – so much so that one model carried a picnic blanket.

While Macdonald's clothes are suitable for parties or posing, Howell's clothes had an everyday vibe. Howell's womenswear is always simple and timeless and, with loose tapered trousers and easy summer dresses on show, this season was no different.

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