Vivienne Westwood staged her Red Label show tonight at London's Royal Courts of Justice, a venue that at first blush seemed an ill fit. What on earth was England's grand dame of helter-skelter fashion doing in George Street's august Victorian Gothic gallery, which operates by day as the lobby for actual courts of law? Then, as the models began strutting down the catwalk clad in this season's grab bag of Red Label looks, the location started to make a kind of wacky sense. The Royal Courts are where civil suits are heard, and if you want to observe the crazy variety of human life in London, which was the overarching theme of Westwood's collection, the courts where people go to sue their neighbors and get divorced is probably as good a place as any.
Anyway, the clothes. This was a more disciplined collection than the one Westwood showed last season, which isn't saying all that much. The theme of Britishness—in particular the eclectic Britishness to be observed around Portobello Market on an average Saturday—gave Westwood an easy through-line for her ideas. Lots of plaid and pinstripe, a fair amount of riding-habit velvet, some chunky marled knits, plus garments inspired by bankers' shirting and prep-school uniforms: presto, the human comedy, West London style. Sprinkle with confetti bursts of neon feathers to taste.
There were, as usual, too many of Westwood's overworked garments here, like a weirdly bunched button-down minidress in broadcloth blue, with ungainly pleating at the shoulder. Westwood's big eccentricities, like those confetti feathers, are winning; her little ones often feel like contrivances. That said, there were a number of clever, wearable garments: Westwood came up with a great abstract print for her silk taffetas this season, which she twisted and tailored into a bunch of fine cocktail looks, and her awkwardly cut suits in velvet and check had a nice dandyish feel. She also sent out one of this season's really good pieces of outerwear: a simple wool coat set askew, as though someone had buttoned it the wrong way and decided she liked the rakish look. There was a lot to like, in fact, if you were willing to dig for it. In that way, the collection really did feel like a day at Portobello.