London Fashion Week: Fashion as contemporary politics
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, the military theorist, famously wrote that war was the continuation of politics by other means. Sometimes fashion is too.
Take this season in London, most vocally at Vivienne Westwood; an eco agitprop performance on a fashion catwalk addressed by Greenpeace leader John Sauven.
"Homo Loquax," meaning talkative or chattering man, was the name of the latest Westwood collection. And half her cast in this co-ed show did make politically charged speeches, including Sauven.
Westwood has long campaigned to alert people to the dangers of global warming. This season she took her commitment to a different level, in a packed-out show inside St John’s Church in Westminster.
Over a score of activists from various movements, from anti-fracking to anti-Brexit, walked with face microphones – speaking and strutting.
"Years of inaction has brought a crisis to this world. We must act now. This rotten financial system has taken us to a tipping point. But oil corporations like BP are happy if we go over the edge," warned Sauven, attired in a deep gray Westwood suit.
Another gentleman called Daniel Lismore who wore a Comanche’s shawl and little else said he had united with Vivienne to raise $100 million to stop global warming.
The clothes did feel like an afterthought. But nonetheless looked pretty darn good: bold tartan suits and coats; tuxedos worn with bare legs and patent leather cowboy boots for men; mega red plaid coats with huge shawl collars and fantastic leggings and puffers with abstract Arcadian images.
At the finale, Westwood toured the raised catwalk singing the children’s song Round and Round the Village, as the cast marched with banners, political posters and manifestos.
A generation younger, Henry Holland protested against building borders. Theresa May once infamously said that if you are a citizen of the world, you are citizen of nowhere. She should tell that to Holland whose latest collection was named "Global Citizen."
Presented on a catwalk of political posters and manifestos, this was a tight commercial proposition, which suggested that being a globalist and not a vulgar nationalist was not a bad thing. His multi-ethnic cast appeared to agree, sauntering out with a cocky air, attired in neon Prince of Wales check tailoring; tie-dyed Cambodian cotton tops; devoré ruched skirts and some fantastic one-shouldered cocktails topped with Che Guevara berets. All anchored by Grenson hiking boots finished with mini Obi belts and knitted straps.
Backed up by some excellent spinning by Nick Grimshaw, this was a gutsy effort by the ever-optimistic Holland.
"Picture a globe with no colors. No names, no measurements, because life is not measured by miles," read the program notes.
Brexit may well be happening, but London remains a massive lure for so many foreign talents. One great brand currently on a roll in London is Zilver, the latest incarnation of Pedro Lourenço, a wunderkind Brazilian who is maturing into a tremendous designer.
It helped that Lourenço staged his latest show in a great space, underneath Phonica, the best collectors' LP store in Soho. A co-ed show where the energy of London met the steamy sexuality of Lourenço’s native São Paolo.
His best looks: two-tone western down waistcoats; silver nightclub surfer slacks for guys; sci-fi down jackets and coats for a galactic space colony. For the ladies, a brilliant shearling flight jacket cut into a dress; a multi-zip mini dress in a parachute fabric and a reconstructed jumpsuit in similar material with lots of sass. Gallons of attitude but highly wearable.
Pedro called the collection "Classics of the Future," but it should really have been named Ultima Thule chic.
Finally, London’s ability to influence the mind was apparent in a noteworthy show by Erdem Moralioglu.
The inspiration was clever this season, the famous Roman Princess Orietta Doria Pogson Pamphilj, a courageous anti-Fascist, who was prevented as a child from going to school because of her beliefs. She lived in the UK in the 60s and brought back Swinging London when she returned to Rome to take over one of Italy’s greatest aristocratic estates and a 1,000-room palazzo on via Del Corso, the main street of the ancient city.
The result was a beautiful display of jacquard fantasy dresses; brilliantly cut suits embroidered with jet and bugle beads and pinched-at-the-waist patrician gowns.
Haute couture is strictly speaking a French phenomenon. Though, it’s the correct nomenclature to use to describe this impressive opulent and beguiling collection from Erdem. And an example of fashion expressing a politico-cultural opinion of tolerance, understanding and openness. No bad thing at all given the times in which we live.
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