Most designers, when titling a collection London, would aim to communicate a spirit of place. Vivienne Westwood is not most designers. Instead, she presented a fairly comprehensive survey of the capital’s fashion history in a collection that made up with sheer exuberance what it lacked in internal cohesion. Four hundred years of heritage were spliced, remixed and covered in sequins. From the tweeds of Savile Row to the frou-frou petticoats of punk-era Kings Road, no part of town was exempt from her royal magpie’s aesthetic.
At times, too, it played almost like a greatest hits collection—hardly contradictory in light of her decades-long impact on British fashion and culture. There were, of course, tartan miniskirts and platform shoes, but her famed fascination with historical costume made an appearance with deep V-shaped stomachers and billowing two-tone taffeta cocoon coats. One look paired a jeweled Elizabethan bodice with ravaged Union Jack leggings in a way that recalled the revisionism of film director Derek Jarman. Baroque brocade was applied liberally while a velvet corset with lavish gold military frogging owed as much to Lacroix as Delacroix. Even Westwood’s knack for imperiling models was undimmed; a modern Naomi Campbell moment was almost recreated by the poor girl in four-inch platforms sent down the runway on a bicycle.
Acknowledging the deviation from the political head-clubbing of her recent work, Westwood spoke afterwards of wanting to escape dour contemporary times by immersing herself in the splendors of the past. The only hint of sloganeering was visible on a T-shirt emblazoned with the words London Blackout. An oblique economic reference or a protest against light pollution? With Dame Viv, it could be either of the above.