“The older I get the more sensual I feel”, read the show notes to press at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood show at Paris fashion week yesterday. A bit of a mouthful, ‘Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood’, but that pretty much sums this up- Kronthaler’s designs are a love letter and tribute to his long-time collaborator and wife, Vivienne Westwood.
The label has only run under that name since 2016 - until then, it was Vivienne Westwood Gold Label - and by passing over the reins - and top billing - of this collection, Westwood showed her belief in him.
The final designer’s bow is taken by not one by both of them, hand in hand, both in clashing prints, Westwood in stilettos and Kronthaler in socks and sandals. He is the one carrying the bouquet, but she is the one who can't resist dashing up to the front row to embrace friends and staunch supporters of the brand while he waits patiently.
For both, this is a labour of love, Westwood hand painting Kronthaler’s graphics onto silk dresses. There are scatterings of love hearts, ‘A & V’ stamped onto the back of dresses and jeans. Some of the prints run to the risqué- graphic line phalluses over delicate pastels spliced with Francois Boucher’s 18th century nymphs - at Comme des Garcons, just an hour later on the Paris schedule, huge, avant garde sculpture dresses were printed with Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus. The clash makes for complex clothes. As Westwood puts it,‘sexy! noble! OTT!’
She's not overplaying it: this is over-the-top fashion. There is spectacle here, models clad in giant fringed headpieces and voluminous ruffles, some clad in barely anything at all- one male model wore only printed boxer shorts and a huge belt, like a wrestler’s prize, stamped with a marijuana leaf.
But strip it back- rather a lot- and there are clothes here that women will want to wear, too. A silk dress in panels of navy, bright blue and purple, a kimono coat, floral silk at the front, metallic brocade at the back. Tailored trousers, striped at the side, and neat checked blouses would work in most women’s wardrobes. There is a balance between clothing and artwork struck here, and while some of it is too outre for most of us, that’s sort of the point - even with Andreas at the helm, this is still Vivienne Westwood, after all.
Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018: See what the front row are wearing