I’m lost for words. Our culture has lost another legend, the ultimate DAME, the truest punk, the Queen of British fashion, one of the most caring souls in this industry, a real activist who never cared about the establishment, the one and only Vivienne Westwood. Thank you for teaching us that fashion can be absolutely something more than just clothes, it can speak volumes and be political. Rest in Peace, Rest in Power. You will forever stay in our hearts, and your work and contribution will keep on inspiring. Deepest condolences to Andreas Kronthaler, her loving life-partner, and her family.
For spring-summer 2023, Andreas Kronthaler was in philosophical form. He reported that until his arrival in Paris a few days ago, he’d not been out of London in more than a year. Instead he had stayed at home and read and designed. The book that hit him hardest was Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell. That text on the great metaphysical poet, who saw lovers’ eyes as hemispheres and clothes as states of mind, helped fire this collection. The ragged tricolored cardigan of look 16 and the soulful accordion on the soundtrack signaled Kronthaler’s enchantment at this Paris return. More broadly we were on an imaginative trip through various characters shaped through clothing. Sibyl Buck was particularly magnificent in her two broad-shoulder, Renaissance-man looks. There were slatterns and angels, monks and harlots, nobles and commoners. The models all wore super-high, Vivienne Westwood-signature platforms that even Donne would have struggled to describe. The only missing element was Westwood herself, whom her husband said was back in London taking part in a wave of protests against the government.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
There are a lot of dramatic moments this Paris Fashion Week. Some directly refer to the atrocities going on in our world (Balenciaga), some deliver Old Hollywood glamour through an alien lens (Rick Owens). Andreas Kronthaler isn’t keeping it quiet either. Vivienne Westwood’s life partner and creative right hand delivered a bracingly engaging collection that was loaded with bold character. For this entertaining line-up, the designer said in his show notes that he’d wanted to pay tribute to the world of theater, plus express lightness. He also had worked “to find the muse in me.” One distinctly Andreas touch was the dandy-ish gentleman in the severe checked loden-cut coat – so too were the handsome boys in silky ruched dresses. Caped hoodies and ruche-backed tracksuits provoked the jotting “medieval athleisure” (the clothes alluded to various historical periods, creating a sort of anachronic, wearable puzzle). Crystal-fringed, 1970s-style silver sports shorts, corseted strumpet dress and track pants decorated in a rough-edged harlequin diamond pattern looked cool right away. Usually, Kronthaler’s collections feel as if somebody visited the attic, opened a dusty chest standing there, and played dress-up with all the treasures that were inside. This season it’s no different, but the amusing theatre theme makes it feel less haphazard and more convincing – especially the vintage-y vibe factor of these runway „costumes”. Westwood herself was hauled onstage as the curtain drew back and Kronthaler’s cast took in the lengthy applause. Flowers were thrown and bouquets exchanged. Then, Westwood did some hauling of her own, pulling granddaughter Cora Corré out of the crowd. A lovely family moment.
For Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood, one unintended consequence of lockdown was a passionate rediscovery of My Fair Lady. Combined with a timely refurbishment of their 1980s vintage couture store on London’s Davies Street, the result was a collection and video titled Mayfair Lady. “It’s an incredible place,” said Kronthaler of the area. “It’s full of history, and you can feel that it was once the center of the world’s most powerful country.” In the autumn-winter 2021 collection’s film, the couple and their talented cast (headed by Caroline Polachek!) showcase Kronthaler’s collection in and around the store, strolling giddily past the London streets. The collection is a joyfully haphazard collage of references (flower girl headpiece, professor’s robe, and so on) sprinkled within a typically anarchic Kronthaler context. Many of the pieces were upcycled, and the designer said his shapes were sometimes dictated by the scraps of fabric available. “We express ourselves in clothes when we dress up,” said Kronthaler in his press notes. Timeless truth.
Vivienne Westwood is the queen, and Andreas Kronthaler loves to embrace that. In his homemade lockdown look book and film, Kronthaler gave Dame Viv such a powerfully Iron Lady coif he confessed that even he saw a passing resemblance. “But in the end the look we went for was more Raine Spencer,” he added over Zoom, referring to the British socialite. Perhaps it was the concentrated nature of this minimally staffed shoot – four models in all, shot by Kronthaler (who doubled as one of them) on his iPhone, with the intention of limiting as far as possible Westwood’s exposure – but it resulted in an especially intense expression of Andreas’ work to reflect that of his muse and wife. There was a lovely symmetry in the casting of Sara Stockbridge, a longtime Westwood model, who joined what looks like a fun day of dressing up. Garments to love include the Buy Local London map–print shirt worn by Stockbridge, VW in full “Acid Raine” mode, and Kronthaler in leggings and a wig that harked back to Flashdance. The clothing was as archetypally of the house as the expression was divertingly barking. Sustainable, sensational, confrontational, and uncontainable. And the look-book is a visual treat.