There aren’t many designers who can find inspiration in a campaign to save Venice from the effects of climate change but Vivienne Westwood is unique.
The show for her Gold Label collection, at Paris fashion week on Saturday, was called Mirror The World, and saw the designer put the city – slowly sinking into its surrounding lagoon – centre stage on the Paris catwalk. A pre-show film on her blog saw Westwood speak of Venice as an “emporium of culture”, citing painters Titian and Bellini, and the city’s carnival, as inspiration.
A carnival spirit was evident both in the room full of disco balls where the show took place, and with the presence of 90s “it-girl” Victoria Hervey sitting in the front row. The show kept up the theme, using the idea of the carnival as the topsy-turvy, anything-goes place where boys can be girls and girls can be boys. In this show, men wore dresses and neon makeup while women were in mannish tailoring. Other elements of dress-up included coats worn on heads and mirrored catsuits, while ruched dresses were for events a tad more low key.
How this all related to climate change was unclear but, once again, Westwood managed to merge her sometimes conflicting interests of fashion and politics in one event.
The designer has increasingly used the catwalk to raise awareness about political issues. Recent shows have made reference to the threat to tribal communities in Peru from illegal logging and the cruelty of pig farming. There has also been a sense of fun. Her last collection in Paris, for autumn/winter 2015, had a disco-themed set, a band before the show and Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie modelling.
Westwood’s campaigning keeps her in the news. Last month she drove a white tank into the grounds of David Cameron’s constituency home in Oxfordshire in a protest against fracking, and she has been promoting a documentary about the beginnings of Greenpeace, How to Change the World, in the hope of raising people’s awareness about climate change. Last month, in an interview with theGuardian, she weighed into controversial issues ranging from Julian Assange to the 9/11 attacks and migration.
Earlier in the day, in a room of plaster mouldings and chandeliers, Swedish fashion house Acne showed a collection based on musicians’ wardrobes . The clothes worked best when creative director Jonny Johansson played with the theme – as with the tweed top with Bowie-esque lightening stripes – rather than more literal interpretations, such as the Perspex electric guitars on blazers.
Away from clothes, the buzz on Saturday was about Lineisy Montero, the face emerging to define spring/summer 2016. Montero, the 19-year-old model from the Dominican Republic, has walked in all the most significant shows this season, from Balmain to Balenciaga. She is being hailed as an example of the catwalk – dominated by thin, blonde white models – embracing diversity.