Vivienne Westwood spices up show with politics

September 21, 2009 8:45:48 AM PDT
Vivienne Westwood combined punk, politics and pop stars Sunday night to give London Fashion Week a memorable jolt. The focus was on the clothes, but also on her bid to raise awareness about the urgent need to save the world's threatened rain forests.

The aging, charismatic doyenne of the punk design movement wore a green dress - set off by flaming orange hair and bright red lipstick - to emphasize her desire to spur environmental awareness at a time when she believes the planet is in peril.

The "Vivienne Westwood Red Label" show focused on clothes designed to be enjoyed during the restful peace of a summer Sunday in the English countryside even as she warned that Britain's climate may change so quickly that the idyllic island would be changed forever.

"It was amazing, just amazing" said Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding after the show, which featured a series of dresses cut in traditional British fabrics set off by unusual gold headgear, including some that made the models appear to be wearing devil's horns.

"Vivienne Westwood is my favorite designer. Everything's gone full circle. It's back to the '80s."

Westwood actually made her name even earlier than that as the avatar of the punk movement. She has remained a powerful force on the fashion scene and is not shy about injecting politics into her shows.

"Some people may find it odd that I put politics into my fashion shows, but I couldn't just do fashion if I didn't have something else to occupy me," Westwood said after the show. "I need something that is intellectually stimulating, and I think it's criminal that we are not treating this environmental catastrophe with the urgency it needs. We're destroying the planet."

She said the clothes were designed to capture the timeless quality of summertime in England.

"In pagan times, the Greeks were aware of this beautiful, beautiful island," she said. "The way we are willing to sacrifice it is absolutely crazy."

Westwood also used her show to raise support for Prince Charles' various rain forest initiatives. In the past, Westwood has used her London Fashion Week shows to criticize American policy, specifically the handling of detainees at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.

She always draws a star-studded crowd, and Wednesday was no exception. Wednesday's front-row crowd included former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, singer Joss Stone, and former Culture Club singer Boy George, who wore heavy makeup, eyeliner, and an oversize bright pink hat emblazoned with a pirate's emblem.

He raved about the show, saying Westwood always sets fashion trends rather than following others.

"It wasn't a raunchy show or a sexy show, so that must be the new mood," said Boy George. "She's way ahead of everybody."

He said he used to go to Westwood's shop to marvel at her clothes before he started his music career but couldn't afford to buy any of the items. Since then, he has collected a number of her pieces.

"She's one of the best British designers," he said. "She's the only one who's done something completely original."

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