With the sad news of Vivienne Westwood’s passing in December last year, the fashion world mourned one of its most iconoclastic icons. Not just a designer responsible for some of the most important subcultural and cultural aesthetics of the last 100 years, Westwood was also outspoken about systemic issues within the industry and, in particular, the ways in which it is aggressively detrimental to the environment.
She was, in short, something far too rare – not just in the fashion world, but also in life: a human being whose style and substance were always in step. Someone who practiced, as much as she could and often just a little bit further than many of her peers might say she should, exactly what she preached.
With all this in mind, that the Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 23 Ready-to-Wear presentation at Paris Fashion Week – notably marking the first such presentation since Westwood’s passing – should be a tribute to the late designer and activist was naturally beyond question. What Andreas Kronthaler – the brand’s creative director, as well as Westwood’s partner in both life and design – revealed, however, was more than a memento mori. Something more like a mission statement.
There was consistency here: consistency in feel and in form – in the eccentricities of the silhouettes and the rampant asymmetry – that felt like a continuation of Westwood’s work; aesthetic choices designed to reflect and also to impart a certain view of the world. Shapes that, in their twisted nature, felt inherently anti-establishment – innately in revolt against the system they are themselves a part of.
Continuum, though, came in more than just the form of concept: in crafting the collection almost entirely from deadstock, Kronthaler paid homage to Westwood’s material history and rendered the designer’s progressive ideology in material form, transposing those values to the real world in a way that feels tangible and imminent.
Given Westwood’s long history of high-pressure environmental activism and Kronthaler’s note to Vogue that “it’s a very good thing to do, to continue, not stop anything, or make big decisions,” these choices feel both pre-ordained and progressive: a voice from the past, imbued with decades of wisdom, speaking to the future.
As we previously reported, “[For FW22] 71% of the collection was produced from low-impact and cruelty-free materials, set to increase to 95% when factoring in production for stores.” A commitment followed by yet another pledge: “a goal [of] using up the brand’s own deadstock fabrics from past collections.”
Another promise kept, then, even in Westwood’s absence. And with it, an understanding that there is now, perhaps, a way to work within the systems and machinations of the fashion industry to change it for the better. And, of course, most importantly, a way to work without.
Images: Manuel Lastiri