Vivienne Westwood turns catwalk into austerity protest

Vivienne Westwood turns catwalk into austerity protest
PHOTO: Reuters

LONDON - British designer Vivienne Westwood transformed the catwalk into a protest march at London Fashion Week on Sunday, blending style with politics and sharp tailoring with anti-austerity placards.

The long-time rebel and activist, 74, held the launch of her spring-summer 2016 runway show for her Red Line collection in the basement of the University of Westminster.

As fashion writers and celebrities took their seats, the lights went down and the sound of a siren announced the show had begun.

A group of people took to the floodlit catwalk holding placards reading "Climate Revolution", "Austerity is a Crime" and "Fracking is a Crime", referring to the controversial method of extracting shale gas.

"It's incredibly important... to be political because we face incredible danger from our politicians and we've got to stop them!" Westwood wrote in a letter given to each guest.

"They cause climate change and war... they're taking us to mass extinction and we have to do something." Westwood seemed to have in her sights the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, an enthusiastic backer of fracking. Just last week, Westwood rode an armoured vehicle to Cameron's home in protest at the policy.

Dressed colourfully in leggings, shorts, red lipstick and brightly-coloured crowns, Westwood's protesters brandished their placards outside the fashion show venue before she later led them onto the catwalk.

Her collection seemed inspired by activists. Models wore draped and ruched clothing with a vintage, mish-mash feel, many with badges pinned on their lapels and their faces daubed with black paint.

The collection mixed feminine dresses with sculpted silhouettes and asymmetric trouser suits, a playful approach to contrast echoed in an earlier show by Georgian designer David Koma.

Karate and tulle

Emerging talent Koma sent cocktail dresses tied with karate belts down the runway in a sleek mashup of dance and martial arts.

Lively violin music set a light and carefree tone. Dresses were short, pleated and flared, with round necklines in cool shades of mint-blue and pastels, and contrasting textures from leather to transparent tulle.

A glamorous martial feel was in evidence in chain mail sequinned mini dresses and skirts, and in vulnerable nude and deep blue colours.

"As always there is a power and strength, key to Koma's world," as the brand put it.

Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders also featured waist belts and kimono shapes in his bright and energetic collection.

Dominated by bold geometric stripes and patterns, Saunders' collection debuted in a greenhouse lined with large mirrors that reflected the blue sky.

The long dresses with sweeping diagonal lines of colour riffed on 1970s themes, with beige, reds, coral and lemon shades layered with bright contrasting prints.

The shapes emphasised a long and flowing silhouette, with light, thin scarves knotted loosely around models' necks that fluttered as they walked.

At Paul Smith, models were dressed in bold streaks of colour in a collection dominated by deep yellows and umbers, navy and white, with hemlines ending below the knee and waist belts adding definition.

Models sported long sleeves, blazers and accessories such as large briefcases, evoking the world of the workplace.

Another British fashion heavyweight, Burberry, is to follow on Monday, while it will offer sneak previews of the new collection on messaging service Snapchat as it reaches out to a young and tech-savvy market.

The 62nd edition of London Fashion Week is held in London's Soho district and will showcase over 150 designers by the time it wraps up on Tuesday.

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