When there was much talk a few seasons ago of "the female fashion designer," with a cod-feminist veneer applied by many magazines, Marc Jacobs pointed out to this reviewer, "There is nobody more influential than Vivienne Westwood or Miuccia Prada, and they don't get talked about in that way." They're viewed as designers, not (merely) female designers.
In the Vivienne Westwood Red Label show today, it was perhaps up to the designer herself to make a not-so-veiled comment that went beyond the silliness of this discussion. Known to be not such a fan of Feminism with a capital F, Westwood proceeded to present a ladylike collection that harked back to the austerity period of her youth. These painted 1950s ladies—literally so at times, with full faces of green, blue, yellow, and pink makeup—sauntered along the catwalk in clothing that was among Westwood's more demure offerings: fine wool twinsets, pink silk jacquard skirtsuits, cocktail dresses with giant pearls. These codified clothes have been seen many times before in Westwood's output as the ultimate punk reactionary, but they were particularly purposeful and pretty today. They also pointed to a period when consumerism wasn't rampant, and fashion was not so disposable—something that Westwood is known to appreciate about her upbringing.
All of this was accompanied by a live performance by Rooster, with Sara Stockbridge—perhaps the ultimate Westwood muse, and most closely associated with the designer's mini-crini, corset, and crown phase—providing jarring lead vocals.
As the designer emerged at the end, heavily cloaked and helmeted, by Stephen Jones, naturally, and with thick black makeup applied to her mouth and eye, she was the literal grim-faced antithesis of what had just gone before. Dropping her cloak to reveal the most unflattering pair of large knickers and a T-shirt that stated, "Climate Revolution," she further unfurled and held aloft a banner with the aid of two helmeted model helpers that said the same.
Vivienne Westwood has almost attained the status of a British national treasure. But don't be slapping the National Trust sign on her just yet: She will never really ever be "kept"—she's far too unpredictable for that.