Sunday, 19 February 2012

LFW A/W2012: Vivienne Westwood Red Label Sticks to the Classics

 [Images collaged from photography].

In a time of economic instability, Olympic fever and the occasionally bizarre and nonsensical 21st century craze (I'm looking at you, Justin Bieber fans), it's sometimes reassuring to return to old ideas. With Vivienne Westwood's Red Label show for Autumn/Winter 2012 there was a distinct sense of deja vu - plenty of familiar shapes and patterns made an appearance and were lapped up by a willing audience. 

Westwood may well have been thinking, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' when she showed the three looks above, which all carry her signature style of clever pintucks, nipped-in waists and romantic flounces tied up with ribbon. Her failsafe creations will still prove popular, as many people - myself included - would kill to dress their curves in this way, but it was perhaps less revolutionary and theatrical than many of her previous collections.

For me, although Westwood has always been interchangeable with Britishness and tradition, she's also stood for outcasts, underdogs and rebels (and not just because she used to be Malcolm McLaren's partner). 

The three looks above are all ways that she has channelled some of that energy into this collection, though she is playing it safer than usual by sticking to standard body proportions, no pintucks or draping and no colour clashes. The rugby shirt on the left is only mildly different from one that you might see on a rugby player, and that's because she's chosen to use her own patches. The jumpsuit is a gorgeous pattern, but not hard to imagine working on an everyday woman. I love the fact that she has integrated more pedestrian ideas and given them the Westwood stamp, but it felt a little disappointing not to see them presented with a little more irony.

The most playful element of the collection was a hint of granny chic and the English eccentric, whether that meant the outfit on the left (which would blend into the set of Coronation Street in the 1960s) or the slight lean towards Worzel Gummidge (childhood fictional character who happened to be a scarecrow) in the central ensemble of oversized hat and layers of men's clothing with backcombed hair. The dress on the right is really bold but it does remind me of 1990s curtains and soft furnishings, with its jazzy angular structures. 

I'm not regarding these looks as negative or naff; I am fully ready to embrace the naffness, Dame Viv, really I am. I quite like the rejection of the new and the clear recycling of old ideas and stereotypes. I also enjoyed the earlier classic looks and the adoption of the very British rugby shirt. But perhaps what this show lost was a much-needed fraction of the utterly bonkers which I have come to expect and depend on. I know that Red Label is different to Anglomania and Gold Label, but it didn't have the edge this time. It will have strong commercial appeal and many copycats, but perhaps not raise as many eyebrows as normal.

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