Vivienne Westwood declares war on materialism in hotpants and helmet

Grand dame of style storms into London Fashion Week. Rebecca Gonsalves reports

The spirit of London Fashion Week in the late Nineties was alive and kicking as last night Philip Treacy made his return to the London Fashion Week schedule with a show that reminded us that audacity may still triumph over corporate clout.

A cast of all black models, introduced by Lady Gaga styled in a veil of pink tulle as Treacy's great friend Isabella Blow, wore original Michael Jackson costumes. Liquid gold and quiksilver headpieces, Neverland amusement crowns with working fun rides and LED-ringed full body cocoons were an extension of a collection inspired by Africa, Treacy said.

The designer originally visited the LA auction house Julien's with the intention of buying Marilyn Monroe's false eyelashes. Unable to track them down he stumbled across the collection of Jackson's costumes.

The show displayed Treacy's ability to see his extraordinarily sculptural designs as part of a bigger picture.

Stalwart of British fashion Vivienne Westwood presented her Red Label collection in the marble splendour of the Foreign and Commonwealth office. At a time when London is looking back to its punkish heyday, the grand dame of the movement travelled back further still with a Fifties-inspired collection.

Faces painted in chartreuse and pink were topped with debutante shampoo and sets, headpieces of elaborate English garden blooms and Grace Kelly headscarves printed with technicolour bank notes. Twin-sets in icy pastels were paired with capri pants and pencil skirts. Cocktail dresses in red, abstract oil painting prints and dainty florals were draped and tucked to create Westwood's signature feminine silhouette and teamed with supersized pearls.

The collection was accompanied by a manifesto of sorts, urging a renunciation of materialistic values. "Buy less, choose well, make it last," said Westwood. The designer reprised her role of caped crusader from the Paralympics closing ceremony, unfurling a banner reading "climate revolution" and parading down the catwalk in a rhinestone-covered Second World War helmet, painted handlebar moustache and sheer tights over boxer shorts.

Topshop's Unique label showed a mature offering, the lean silhouette of which contrasted with Westwood's youthful femininity. The mood was one of Nineties minimalism, black and bright white the predominate shades as windowpane checks and florals appeared in monochrome on fluid shifts with assymetric detailing and dipped hems as well as tailored separates.

The emerging and somewhat unlikely trend for dungarees was continued yesterday by Margaret Howell, that purveyor of classically English good taste.

Here the apron-fronted garment spoke of The Good Life, rendered in dark, almost black, denim with a slash of a zip pocket. Poplin shirt dresses were crisp yet not starchy while navy tailoring came as wide-legged trousers, slim cigarette pants and culottes.

A black knitted cropped top and short set trimmed with cream conjured a snapshot of a British beach trip in the Fifties. Adding to the retro holiday mood were smock tops over shorts, lightweight wool pieces and closed-toe T-bar shoes. Polished as ever, Howell is not one who pays heed to trends, but is right on the money with this romantic summertime ideal.

Transport kindly provided by Mercedes Benz.

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