The show notes at Vivienne Westwood felt like an e-mail from an old, dear friend who happens to think and feel very deeply. They began with the words: "Bullet points are a good way of setting out your ideas." And the designer did just that, enumerating a slightly rambling list of notions that revolved around lost civilizations and the importance of heeding the past to succeed in our present and future. These fed her main message: Save the planet.
Westwood titled the collection The Only One, presumably in reference to Earth, but she could have been talking about her own singular role—equal parts grande dame, provocateur, and industry Cassandra. Certainly these clothes, which had a recycled bent to them, reflected it through and through. The first look out—a haphazard pouf in rich burgundy silk—was like a Renaissance-era garbage bag. If that punk rock-cum-retro finery doesn't say Westwood, nothing does. The collection had all manner of seemingly found materials in stained, striped ticking, pillowcases, and even old pool towels, each cleverly crafted into Westwood's romantic and historical oeuvre. Of course, her references to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century gowns and suits can be seen as a form of recycling, as well as a way of keeping the lessons of years gone by fresh in the mind. But as heavy as the rhetoric might have been, the clothes themselves had quite a fun kick.
At every seat was a refillable metal water bottle from SIGG with an exterior that Westwood designed. One even made it into the show. Delivering this message at a fashion show, something that's inherently waste-inducing both now and six months later, is an uneasy proposition. Westwood seems to walk the walk. She made headlines earlier this year by telling people not to shop. Making special clothes that, like some of these, aren't disposable is one way to spin it. But if you thought about it too long, you'd eventually get to the question: If she's right, what are we doing here?