Gender was dismissed in Vivienne’s Westwood’s quest to ‘Save Venice’ with her Gold Label.
Westwood’s political activism sits deep at the centre of the brand ethos, and every show seems to bring with it a re-envisioning of how clothes, production, and press can be used to contribute to her multitude of causes. For Gold Label SS16 Westwood turned her eyes to the Venice Carnivale – these lavish and purposefully demonstrative aesthetic inspirations provided a springboard upon which to discuss the city’s slow, but hurrying, submergence and its relation to the wider issue of climate change. Now its easy for a fashion show’s politic to get lost in the myriad of press which surfaces after its occurrence, however Westwood greeted everyone at their seats with an invitation to march with her on November 29th in London at The People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs. If, like most of us, you can’t quite afford the head-to-toe Vivienne does Venice look, here is a chance to actually physically contribute to a cause which, dare it be said, is much more important than a fashion show in Paris anyway.
Garment-wise, the focus was less on the masterfully proportioned cocktail-cum-evening gowns the house is truly famed for. In fact, there was a lot of day: printed denim added a court-jester moment, a distressed buttery leather bomber in tan was ready for anything, and hi-print striped three piece suits, or the same in a molten-chocolate colour, were incredibly luxurious, and incredibly effortless. Referencing Venice’s watery surroundings, a lot of sailor details cropped up: net bralets, rope waist ties, and hessian skirts. Carnivale citations were in fact more subtle, although show-stopping pieces go to the Schiapparelli inspired surrealist face-mask, printed suiting which was scaffolded high above the head – with its wearer disappearing into the darkness of the Venice night, and a head to toe dripping crystal net body suit was beautifully impractical. Yes, there were dresses – in all of their Westwood lasciviousness – but the vocabulary of the offering felt wider this season, and it was exceptional.
A note on gender
The collection was shown on a cast of models presenting as either men or women. There was no big flurry or reference as to who was wearing what article of clothing – traditionally gendered items were worn by all, across the board. This lack of reference is refreshing for the catwalk – designers who usually centralise their entire aesthetic upon genderlessness often end up superficially representing it and forcing an incredibly complex topic into the very shortsighted box of ‘trend’. No. And this was not what Westwood was trying to do. This was not post-gender, but nor did it claim to be (if anyone knows how to get there, please get in touch). Here Westwood removed the gendered aspect of the clothing, as opposed to the gender of the wearer – for this is no designer’s place.
Photographer: Thurstan Redding
Words: Tom Rasmussen