An ode to the instinct for survival if ever there was one.
Everyone this season seems obsessed with survival - perhaps this is more about the economic than the environmental climate, but a parade of bankers is far less exciting than an array of eco-warriors. Certainly, that was the reasoning of Vivienne Westwood when considering her A/W 2010 MAN show - an ode to the instinct for survival if ever there was one. Maybe that is giving Westwood short shrift - modes of redress, distress and make-do-and-mend are more than just climate-change fad fodder for her. Indeed, they've been part of her ouvre for decades, whether that be reconfiguring teddy boys for the seventies, slicing dishcloth into a 'kitchen sink' cardigan or her latter-day experiments with flinging panes of unfinished fabric around the body. This season, she continued in her own inimitable path but her clothes suddenly chimed with the more mainstream offerings of Milan's power players. Witness the flurry of substantial shearlings - particularly a gilet that looked like a sheep slung over the shoulders of one model - slashed and layered knitwear with earth-coloured cave man prints, and a hint of utility in boilersuits and practical denim. That hint of function infused the tailoring too, with clever double-linings allowing cuffs to peel back and up at the wrist and still leave arms covered. She also caught onto the military feeling too, with medal-strewn cadet tailcoats and wicked intarsia knits aping officer's mess dress, studded with crystal or frothed with three-dimensional lurex braid. It was idiosyncratic, quintessential Westwood. The unfortunate thing is that idiosyncratic, quintessential Westwood doesn't just mean well-cut suits in hardy wool and tartans and inventive knits. It means bawdy British humour, overworked didactic design and lurid catwalk pranks. This season, we got all of these in abundance - most notably the latter. It's difficult to pay attention to the clothes when models hoick spittle, feign pratfalls and bust-ups, or indeed push shopping-trolleys of detritus in imitation of vagrants. She stated that she found inspiration in their 'battle gear for the harsh weather conditions', but rather than homeless homage, this show too often seemed to fall into parody, leaving the audience the more uncomfortable for it. A catwalk of cardboard boxes, sleeping bags slung over necks and artificial touches of grime on faces were a little too close to the bone, especially when the fashion press had to pass half-a-dozen homeless people on their way into the venue. Westwood loves to antagonise and provoke - she's the grandmother of punk, for pete's sake - but sometimes those 'vagrant' touches seemed pure, embarrassing bad taste with very little real substance underneath. Likewise the outfits they often inspired. I for one had strains of 'qu'ils mangent de la brioche' ringing in my ears - and although I liked much of what was on offer, I cannot - or rather will not - applaud the sentiment.