Vivienne Westwood’s inimitable lightness of being
It was under a humongous lightweight paper sculpture of clouds that a posse of skateboarders opened the show at Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, in an airy industrial space in central Paris on Saturday.
This season was inspired, the designer said in his show notes, by the 'powerful skate girls of Kabul' photographed by Jessica Fulford-Dobson, a photo series on the Afghan girls finding both joy and independence of movement in a country where bike-riding is strictly taboo for women. And, in the penultimate season before Brexit, which has clearly been the word on everyone’s lips, a firmly insouciant show that rejected the gloomy predictions of Britain's exit from the EU - which has already been taking a toll on the house - seemed a quiet protest in itself.
So it was this gentle and joyful resistance that Kronthaler channeled for spring/ summer 2019, girls hurtling past in silver jacquard, bodybuilders on scooters in pink Y-fronts and rhinestones, with the habitual Westwood disregard for sartorial gender conventions.
The billowing proportions underlined the collection’s legerity, many a mirror image of the scudding clouds overhead. Plush sky-blue cushions shrouded in diaphanous tulle encircled one model’s upper body, pale tulle sprouting at the ankles of others.
Peek-a-boo veiling was deftly transferred into artful cutaways in later looks. Disassembled dresses and shredded smocks, pulled taut with drawstrings, drew away from the body to expose nude corsets and girdles, the first range of underwear created for the house in collaboration with Kronthaler's longtime friend, lingerie and swimwear designer Yasmine Eslami. And, in floral pastels for men and women, corseted bodices boasted bucolic prints of frolicking horses.
Backstage, the designer was equally buoyant: “It was supposed to be clouds in the making. It was about lightness. It’s a summer collection. What’s more amazing in the summer than seeing the summer sky? It’s the biggest bliss I know.”
And on the diversity of the show? “We’re all different, and that’s to celebrate.”
For the house of Vivienne Westwood, Brexit is but a dark cloud on the horizon. At least for an afternoon.
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