It is interesting that Vivienne Westwood - one-time thumber of nose, bucker of trends and all-round, cage-rattling fashion rebel - is now British fashion's grande Dame, OBE. Despite a gap of almost two decades since she last showed her mainline on a London catwalk (now, and in the late nineties, she only deigned to grace us with her secondary Red Label), her influence can still be felt at every level, from rebellious B.A. upstarts to post-modern, post-feminism fit-n-flare tailoring. It is perhaps therefore a mark of respect that her show still pulls both the crowds of eager hangers-on and a stellar front row. As ever, for Autumn/Winter 2009 the show riffed on those Westwood classics we have come to know and love: tweed suiting straight from Time Machine and Civilizade, Fair Isle knits and tartan from her early 1990's Anglophilia phase, and even a parade of Commedia del l'Arte bi-colour leggings lifted piecemeal from 1989's Voyage to Cythera. For those less attuned to Westwood old, the popped-out, pushed-in Yorkshire Pudding shoulders and curvier-than-curvy exaggerated tailoring spoke of her Gold Label direction for the last few seasons. And really that's what this label is all about - after all, Red Label is a diffusion line, a cash-cow milking seasons past to support less commercial endeavors. Thus, models toted outsized Westwood handbags, clothes were salable separates and always-popular knitwear, and the trademark orb loomed large over proceedings. It was all staple, signature Viv. No shock, no fuss - and in a sense, no fashion. These clothes could have been two or ten seasons old, and wouldn't have changed much. As with Chanel in the fifties and sixties, perhaps Westwood is becoming a style rather than a fashion - something indelible, unquestioned and eternal rather than confined to the seasonal ebb and flow. Certainly, as with Coco way back when, Viv creates her own mythology, and is her best advertisement. When the auburn-haired, bustle-backed Dame teetered down the catwalk, the audience erupted into heartfelt cheers, although inevitably this was more for Viv old than Red Label new.
It was all staple, signature Viv. No shock, no fuss - and in a sense, no fashion.