Vivienne Westwood often uses her Red Label show as a springboard to talk about climate change, and today's catwalk presentation was no exception. At the beginning, a figure hunkered down in the center of the square stage underneath a red spotlight, with wild hair and a full-length dress vaguely classical in feeling, draped and dusted all over with white powder. She began to dance. The figure turned out to be Lily Cole, who interpreted a passage from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes": Once the girl in the story has been seduced and taken over by the red shoes, they dance her to death. After that the show began.
The models all emerged in similar white makeup, a look later described by Westwood as "like an animal trapped in the headlights, trying to flee and trapped." "The Red Shoes" had been a metaphor for climate change refugees, both people and animals, trying to flee but with no place to go. Westwood's clothing for Red Label was somewhat more conventional in feeling. There was a vague nature motif—a great, intense recurring floral photoprint that looked particularly good on a slouchy silk jumpsuit tied at the knees with scarves—but the point of Red Label is that it is about practical, timeless Westwood pieces rather than overly disposable fashion. As always, there were many standout items: the photoprint floral dresses; a gunmetal chain-mail trench and trousers; high-waisted, knee-length shorts with a halter fastening like braces; the always-excellent striped cotton shirting and shirtdress; a characteristic Westwood skirtsuit with that nipped waist and tumbledown front.
The message of Red Label abides by Westwood's personal maxim that she reiterated after her show: "Buy less, choose well, make it last. Quality rather than quantity: That is true sustainability. If people only bought beautiful things rather than rubbish, we wouldn't have climate change!" Of course, the metaphor of "The Red Shoes" also applies to the rampant consumerism engendered by fast fashion. And if there is one thing Westwood wanted people to take away, it wasn't to do with consuming material things at all; it was to read "The Red Shoes," and to read in general: "There are certain writers who give true meaning to the imagination," she said. "There's that line in 'The Red Shoes' when she says to the executioner, 'Come out, come out! I cannot come in, for I must dance.'"