Ooh I do love a bit of Vivienne Westwood. Very much like Alexander McQueen’s designs in ethic, Vivienne Westwood’s are ultimately, at their core, a little bit scruffy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – exquisite tailoring, beautiful bold pattern, supreme workmanship. Ultimately, however, it has a messy, individual edge that makes is accessible to everyone, even a trash-fash, charity shop stalker like me.
So, having heard it was now in stock, I merrily trotted along to Selfridges Manchester to check out the new Spring/Summer 2012 collection. With hair swinging and teeth shining (I didn’t quite look like this but I’m enjoying the vision) I skipped up to the second floor where they’re stocking the Anglomania collection. Considered very much as a way into Westwood (which sounds like a grand road lined with large oak trees), Anglomania is an affordable way, in designer terms, of buying into the brand.
Each season is based around the same set of staple items – drape dresses (which can be worn as long t-shirts), wide necked blazers, angled skirts, slim cut trousers etc – simply refreshed and re-vamped for the new season’s style. Only Westwood doesn’t ever follow trends and therefore does not produce collections that include, what you thought was, this season’s style. Subsequently, despite the Mystic Meg’s of fashion foreseeing a S/S 2012 that is laced in pastel shades, Westwood’s collection includes black, sparkled velour, shades of beige, moss green and navy blue and more heavy printed tassels than you can shake a golden orb at.
Consequently, if your S/S is donned in Westwood, you will not blend into the crowd. But I don’t think that is ever Dame Viv’s intention. Stamping itself all over the collection is a heavy use of sharp Oxford stripes, a light spattering of check and gingham (of course), the introduction of a bold tassel motif and the re-emergence of her squiggle design particularly in the accessories.
The squiggle is also repeated in the jeans Westwood created in collaboration with Lee (have now trotted down to the men’s department). It lines the inside of a jet-black pair of denims that is blazoned with a diamond studded Westwood orb on the back pocket – all yours for a bargainous £125. In my chazzer shop terms, this is pricy, in designer terms, it’s bargain of the century. In the world of ‘fashwan’ (which is sometimes on a slightly different planet), the entire Anglomania collection is extremely reasonably priced. In a way, it depends on how much you intend to buy.
Westwood, a long-term campaigner against the ecological and ethical side effects of fast fashion, has repeatedly said “Buy less choose well”. It was in fact printed across her S/S 2011 gold label campaign t-shirt (this year it’s “Trees Save Lives”). For somebody whose business is to sell clothes, Dame Viv is telling us to buy less.
Recently, and widely, reported to have said “People have never looked so ugly” her design principle is very much based on individuality, buying well and making it last. Despite my obsession with second hand and vintage, I totally agree with Viv here. I have a Westwood Red Label classic white, angled shirt. It is about three years old yet looks as sharp as ever and could comfortably sit alongside her S/S 2012 collection. This isn’t because Westwood is old fashioned, but rather because she is all style.
There is a recognizable and distinctive Westwood style that embraces individuality (does not follow fashion) and encourages you, in wearing it, to do the same. Alongside the black Lee’s are several updated MAN classics (her male Red Label) alongside some key Gold Label pieces. These well-made, mixed-up, unisex items really sum up Westwood. For example, her MAN Gold Label Heart Gaia T-Shirt – a long, oversized, angular cut, black t-shirt awash with a huge red heart – would look just as good on a woman, belted in with heels or boots as on a man, quiffed-up in skinny jeans. Less ‘one size fits all’, more ‘these are my designs, now go and make them your own’!
To accessories this dandy lot is the reliably outlandish collection of bold checked bags and purses, some impressive and deathly jewelry designs and an unusual set of cufflinks (I thought they were taps till I heard the person nest to me laugh at their phallic shape and I realized they were in fact penis’s, and so swiftly moved my staring face away from the glass cabinet). There are also some truly honey-pot heels (sculpted and smooth like they were made for Miss Piggy) and almost Regency style plastic pumps.
So off I skipped on my merry way – full of stylistic inspiration and feeling a strong urge to button up all my clothes at a jaunty angle. I didn’t buy anything, but I fully intend to and I have worn my Red Label shirt three times since, each in a very, very different way. I think Dame Viv would approve. No fast fashion for me but rather trash/clash/more dash than cash style and a piggy bank with Vivienne Westwood’s name on.
Today I read: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Today I listened to: My heart, it carries the sound by Last Harbour