Vivienne Westwood Red Label
February 17, 2013 London
There is much of this punk spirit—or rather, punk aesthetic; there isn't that much anarchy going around—in the air this season, mainly because of the imminent Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition. But how would the godmother of the movement, the fashion originator, respond to it herself in her collection?
On the surface—aesthetically, that is—Westwood seemed to be comprehensively ignoring it. Instead she concentrated on the codified later period clothing, an aesthetic she has pushed so hard it has become familiar looking; it almost appeared today like a workingwoman's wardrobe, especially when the final model emerged in a pantsuit clasping a clipboard. And in many ways Red Label has become a workingwoman's wardrobe. Granted, that woman probably works in the arts or the media, but it is part of Westwood's triumph that her extraordinary clothing vocabulary has become part of the fabric of the every day. All those typical Westwood dresses with their slouchy ease, her casually nipped-waist jackets and typical love of stripes—the burgundy and blue striped coat that opened the show accompanied by stripey kneesocks was one outstanding example—well, it just all looked so effortless. And isn't that more subversive than parading the typical codes of punk with a capital P for all to see?
As Westwood emerged at the end, it was up to her to provide the anarchic element. She was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of herself in man-drag with the words "I am Julian Assange" written on it. The thing about Westwood is that she doesn't have to do punk, she just is punk.
Speaking after her show about the movement she helped create and seemingly left behind, Westwood said: "At one point I was quite contemptuous of punks left over from the movement. I thought punk folded because of a lack of ideas, and I wanted to carry on learning. It wasn't enough to go jumping around and spitting. And then, earlier this year, I was talking to some of the young male models at the men's show, and they had that punk mentality: Don't trust governments ever. I think that is punk. And they were interested in what they wore; it really means something. It's nice to know that mentality still exists in a new generation. I am now really proud of it."