Ready To Wear: Red Label

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Indy Lifestyle Online

It may be a little early in the year to begin fuelling the hype surrounding the biannual London collections, but I for one am thrilled that Vivienne Westwood is showing her Red Label in the capital next month, and intend to keep banging on about it henceforth, ad infinitum and with pride.

Westwood, to the uninitiated, may be based in the UK but she manufactures her clothing in Italy and shows her womenswear in Paris and menswear in Milan. She hasn't graced London Fashion Week with her presence for a decade.

It is perhaps worth pointing out here that not all guest appearances on the London catwalk provoke such unconditional good humour in me. News, for example, that Marc Jacobs would be showing his second line at Claridge's the season before last left me (more or less) cold. Yes, I know that it's good for business. Jacobs brings over the international fashion follower, and so on. But still. Giorgio Armani's London Fashion Week fashathon for the charity Red the time before that left me equally unmoved. Sorry, but there's only a certain amount of effortless Italian style one Earls Court stadium can take.

When Miu Miu had a party in London a decade ago now, it seemed suitably impressive (and was memorable, clearly), and Chanel deciding to show here only last month resulted in an unusually upscale affair.

The thought, however, of Westwood showing in London is an altogether more gratifying one, not least because, of all the members of her profession to have come out of this country, she represents everything that a British fashion designer should be. She is profoundly knowledgeable about and respectful of heritage tartans and tweeds, cardigans and crowns while at the same time being one of fashion's true iconoclasts.

She is also entirely uninterested in what anyone else is doing, choosing instead to follow her own instincts and intelligence, both of which are considerable. To describe Westwood as individual, meanwhile both as a designer and personally is an understatement. She remains hugely influential, unfailingly audacious, and even brave.

Of all the designers working today, only Westwood would have the sheer front, for example, to write a manifesto Active Resistance to Propaganda (AR) damning indiscriminate consumption as well as an awful lot more. Manipulating the media and using fashion as a political, cultural and philosophical means of expression has long been her privilege. Last time Westwood showed her Red Label here, she whipped up a storm by announcing only weeks beforehand that it would be modelled by schoolgirls. Cue the outrage only she is capable of provoking. London waits in anticipation for what the grande dame of British fashion has in store this time round.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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