It’s negligible as to how much involvement Dame Vivienne Westwood has with the Red Label collection that bears her name - sometimes, she seems as surprised as us at the clobber surrounding her when she takes her increasingly protracted march of glory at the end of the show. This is nothing unusual: after all, Vivienne Westwood is a brand these days, and it’s standard practise for designers to delegate the design duties of their diffusion ranges to charges within their studio. With the strength of Westwood’s archive, however, sometimes that can result in rather half-hearted reworkings of some of the most iconic garments of the last thirty years. Westwood herself disdained the punk revival of the early nineties, stripped as it was of all symbolic ramifications. To see anaemic versions march out under her own name is slightly galling, if not for the designer then certainly for her less blinkered fans.
That aside, sometimes Red Label’s seasonal churn through the Westwood archives throws up something quite marvellous - as was the case tonight. The collection this time was inspired by Britishness, a lynchpin of Westwood’s style if ever there was one. She’s titled collections Anglomania and Anglophilia after all, and created another in tweedy homage to her Majesty’s garb - the crowing gory of which made a welcome reappearance tonight, blown up thrice its original size like Sarah Stockbridge on Steroids. That characterised the whole collection, a raucous romp through Vivienne’s greatest hits, taking in Lochcarron tartans, pinstripe tailoring, corseted frocks, dandyish velvet suits and even a few pairs of bondage trousers (sanitised, granted, but not so bad).
It was a lengthy trawl through Westwood’s bygone years - too lengthy by half, honestly, but no matter. Plucking out individual looks seems foolhardy - we’ve seen them all before, after all. What was striking is how they all managed to still seem current, and if not quite fired with the excitement of the new then at least interesting enough to warrant a second looking.