Out of the outrage comes gold: Vivienne Westwood has wowed Paris again, but this time has won more than just applause
Friday 15 October 1993
The press declared her collection a triumph, the designer Azzedine Alaa was speechless, while Jean Paul Gaultier was ranting in ecstasy. Supermodels in bloody battle with American designers over fees are said to have worked for Vivienne Westwood in return for clothes. By Thursday, Marie Claire had done a cover shoot with the clothes and Steven Meisel had snapped them for US Vogue. She's seen all that before: a wacky outfit on a glossy cover is one thing, it is something quite different on a hanger in a store.
This week's Westwood show was staged at the opulent Grand Hotel, where Christian Dior couture shows are always held. It cost a lot, as much as her company could possibly afford, but it should be the beginning of a new story - the moment when she stops being just a wacky source of free ideas, the moment when she moves from succs d'estime to success. Westwood seems this time as never before to have pulled off the fiendishly difficult balancing act between being freely creative and highly commercial. The buyers, obsessed with money in these tough times, spotted highly saleable clothes in Westwood's saucy romp of a show. Flared trousers with a 12ft train on each leg will be tricky, but rose-printed satin separates, abbreviated skirts, what can only be described as sexy knitwear and Henley-striped blazers on an acid trip should sell.
She has long been recognised for her contribution to fashion - John Fairchild, publisher of the mighty US magazine Women's Wear Daily, has named her, along with Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani, as one of the greatest creators of our times. But while Saint Laurent, Valentino, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren et al have wealth enough for Learjets, yachts and beach-front estates in Jamaica, Vivienne Westwood, mother of two, lives in a south London flat and rides a bicycle.
Her business used to be chaotic, run from a catacomb of freezing rooms in Camden Town by her son Joseph Corre. He is no longer with the company and is said to be opening an up-market sex shop. Meanwhile, she is now rehoused in decent premises. The formula: British small-scale production and Italian mass manufacturing.
She has had her false commercial dawns, rip-offs and deals that did not materialise. But this time it all looks a lot more solid. Littlewoods' catalogue will feature a Westwood collection next summer and the French catalogue Trois Suisse has also commissioned Westwood.
There's a deal with the bag maker Braccialini; the shoe manufacturer Charles Jourdan; Swatch watches (with Westwood's limited-edition orb watch now changing hands for hundreds of pounds); a licensing deal with the Japanese conglomerate Itochu, which should make the business big there; plus ongoing perfume plans with Trucocco. Liberty, the London store, now offers exclusive Westwood wedding dresses; and a Westwood book, to be published by Thames & Hudson and featuring the work of leading photographers, is due out next year.
Vivienne Westwood, a greengrocer's daughter born in Tintwistle, Derbyshire, in 1941, is at her peak. Yves Saint Laurent, born in Oran, Algeria, in 1936, is clearly in his magnificent career's twilight. The company he founded with Pierre Berg is now owned by the petroleum giant Elf Sanofi. Saint Laurent's design contract expires in 2001, but the whisper in Paris is that he would happily leave beforehand.
Despite Berg's protestations in the past that he would close the YSL couture house if Yves retired, it is no longer solely his and Yves' to close. How glorious it would be if instead they handed the keys to Vivienne Westwood.
Life & Style blogs
Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
Victoria Beckham's clothing sales double to £30 million in one year
'Tis the season!: Google celebrates Christmas Eve with second animated Doodle
Christmas 2014: Jesus was not born in a stable, says theologian
UK's first plus-size fashion magazine Slink hits the shelves: 'Style doesn't stop at size 8'
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 4 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...