Westwood lets her men rock on

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The Independent Online


Vivienne Westwood showed yesterday that men can have all the fun that women have when it comes to dressing up.

The designer, who is queen of the womenswear catwalks in Paris, showed her menswear in Milan for the first time with a collection of 95 outfits that ranged from Sherlock Holmes suits to black patent leather zip-front mechanic's overalls, and from priest-like cassocks, and vibrant kilts complete with matching shirt, tie, jacket and socks.

Oversized Prince of Wales check jackets were worn with matching Oxford bag trousers and delicate lacy handkerchiefs flopped out of suit pockets.

A stuffed bird of prey perched precariously on top of a turban and Highland blankets were tossed proudly over shoulders. And for the really daring there were solid diamante and sequinned corset-structured torso jackets with in-built muscles. At last, here was a collection for men to marvel at.

Westwood has been making menswear since 1970. When she and Malcolm McLaren set up their first shop, Let It Rock, the garments they produced were a small collection of men's teddy boy suits. Her ideas shocked then as they still do.

Westwood's gentleman customers were spared the padded bum cages used for women. But they were allowed to wear all the accessories such as gold earrings and high-heels. And while most designers have a definite dividing line between clothes for men and women, Westwood simply took her women's clothing, much of which is based on Savile Row tailoring, and re-cut it for men. The result was a disconcerting synthesis of masculine and feminine, historical costume and modern suiting.

Now is the time for Westwood. Milan is full of men dressed in Le Style Anglais - Burberry checks are everywhere. Her collection for next autumn/winter will be a huge hit with the European and Japanese markets.

Westwood's turnover is around pounds 15m and it is hoped that the expansion of her menswear collection will generate another pounds 3m. Tom Logan, buyer for the London store Liberty, is looking forward to selling the collection. "It is wonderful, wearable, tailored clothing - fantastic English dressing," he said after the show.