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Saturday, February 21, 2009

London Fashion Week: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood's oft-rambled mantra, “Women are always trying to be men—they are not men, they are women,” rang out from every spackled pore at her Red Label's fall '09 collection tonight at the Olympia in Hammersmith. You couldn't get more womanly; her naughty schoolgirl ensembles were the living embodiment of the male fantasy female.

Ex-Rolling Stone wife Jo Wood swaggered down the runway as a domineering headmistress in a three-piece trouser suit, her womanly shape guiding a gaggle of young, lithe models. Aptly dressed as her abiding students, they were split into a kind of school caste system. The paler of the waifs had gothy kohl eyes and hair dyed black, while goody-goody Swots practiced their pony steps in smart blazers, old-school tie-stripes and hiked-up minis (these are, of course, Westwood schoolgirls). The sporty set wore striped school scarves and unruly hair that said they smoke cigarettes in the girl's bathroom and send inappropriate notes to boys in math class.

Though a little costumey at times, the collection earned high marks by casting women not as lingerie-clad kittens, but self-assured, self-made types, with strong shapes, blood reds, leather and lots of structure, the buzzword of the week. One journalist, spying stiff, starched collars and exaggerated shoulders, turned to fellow front-rowers and purred, “Architectural, I knew it."

Part of the success lies in the fact that these sartorial nymphs were not necessarily women as they actually are, but women as we want them to be, much like Pamela Anderson, Westwood’s new muse and the face of her spring campaign—apparently because she digs her “irony." Backstage, Anderson bounced around in the same sheer blouse that made her nipples seem like saucers in Juergen Teller's print ads, billing and cooing with the orange-haired dame, saying, “Yesterday I was pornography, now I'm considered art.” Isn't it ironic?

—Hynam Kendall

Vivienne Westwood

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