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London Fashion Week: Vivienne Westwood stages protest as activists including Rose McGowan perform speeches on the catwalk

The British designer is known for her commitment to environmental activism, report Harriet Hall and Olivia Petter

Sunday 17 February 2019 20:53 GMT
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London Fashion Week: Model says 'Brexit is a crime' as Vivienne Westwood AW19 show turns political and ending with the designer singing bizarre song

Vivienne Westwood used the catwalk as her political stage once again at London Fashion Week on Sunday, as models, activists and actors took to the runway at the showing of her autumn/winter collection to perform speeches that criticised the dangers of climate change, Brexit and capitalism.

The British designer showcased her new collection in St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, but her sartorial vision played second fiddle to her sociopolitical one, which saw the actor Rose McGowan perform a powerful speech on the runway wearing a hat with ”ANGEL” written across it.

The #MeToo pioneer was joined on the catwalk by men and women of all ethnicities and sizes – including model Camilla Rutherford and John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace – whose anarchic spirit was aesthetically realised via garish face paint, prosthetic noses and fluorescent crowns.

Physical statements of activism were made too, with some models lying down on the catwalk while others stomped down it with lashings of attitude. One even sat perched on the edge of it.

In an unusual twist, models also held microphones and spoke to the audience in a theatrical display, urging one another to buy less and pontificating on the consequences of consumerism.

One paused on the runway to say that Brexit was a crime, while another took a jibe at American foreign policy.

As for the clothes themselves, they were as avant-garde as one would expect of a Vivienne Westwood collection.

Models wore dishevelled-but-chic coats, repurposed fabrics, hand-knitted recycled jumpers, slogan T-shirts and sandwich boards scrawled with messages of protest.

In what felt like a return to her punk roots, the designer also honoured her anti-establishment message with shock-factor styling: slipped nipples and micro-kilts worn without underwear.

At the end of the show Westwood herself skipped down the catwalk singing, before joining the entire cast to stand on a performance picket line.

The show was met with rapturous applause and a standing ovation from attendees including the artist Tracy Emin, a longtime fan and supporter of the designer.

It’s not the first time Westwood has used the catwalk to protest, having used her platform to address everything from fracking and austerity (spring/summer 2016) to the Scottish referendum (spring/summer 2015) to controversial anti-terrorism laws (spring/summer 2006).

She has also been a passionate anti-Brexit campaigner, releasing a film in January last year to promote her unisex autumn/winter 2018 collection that featured a model waving Union Jacks and EU flags.

But climate change remains a concern that is particularly close to her heart.

The 77-year-old designer works closely with several environmental groups, including Greenpeace, who she partnered with in 2014 for the organisation’s Save the Arctic campaign, and she has her own anti-global warming website, Climate Revolution.

Westwood’s activism even trickled into the collection she recently launched in collaboration with Burberry, with an oversized T-shirt created in dedication to the charity Cool Earth, which aims to combat global warming and put an end to deforestation.

Long may Westwood continue her reign as the activist queen of British fashion.

Follow all our coverage of London Fashion Week here.

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