Andreas Kronthaler heralded a new season in his Fall 2020 collection for Vivienne Westwood with a procession of models dressed as French Revolution pagans. The joyfully draped voluminous sleeves and skirts contrasted with tiny cinched waists and aristocratic silhouettes subverted with environmentally friendly atypical fabric choices. A mesmerizing long haired musician performed live singing a song that forewarned “The Year is 2020 and Change Is Happening.” You can say that again. Yet Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood’s rites of passage have a clear positive message, “light overcomes the darkness,” and spring will bring new life after winter, and universal love can prevail in this day and age. The defiant, and playful Victorian silhouettes also have a close kinship to Westwood’s punk spirit convincingly carry a romantic, yet determined message.
As the models paraded down the catwalk in one of the opulent rooms in the Hôtel de Ville, they wore elegant, aristocratic clothing that combines Westwood’s extensive body of work with modern silhouettes. There were magnificent dresses, bold glittery makeup, and dramatic head pieces in various colors and sizes who owed their presence to a book the designer had read on folkloric characters said to end winter and expel evil. In the Westwood pantheon, those would be the things worth fighting against, like climate change. Westwood certainly knows how to put on a show, and as the designer herself put it, “Clothes mark the life we live, the occasions we experience, the seasons. I refer to as the Rites of Spring. With powerful costume you try to push away, to kill the dark spirits of winter, expel the wild men of chaos, restore order and bring the earth back to life” explains Westwood.
After selecting the Paris’ Hôtel de Ville as the show venue, Andreas Kronthaler said his starting point had been “the idea that workers would look great taking over City Hall.” But instead of a revolution, it was a very on brand-message of Vivienne Westwood’s grand dresses with corseting and artfully lopsided tailoring. Pure Westwood, or as the musical artist No Bra, who performed the show’s soundtrack in trousers from the collection and her hair à la Lady Godiva, put it: “Newness is not progress, progress is not newness.” Still, the collection held up to scrutiny. Parkas and blouson jackets balanced out the proportions and drama of flowing skirts. Layers of knitwear and streamlined blazers came together without bulk in slim, elongated silhouettes.
For the finale Kronthaler sent two memorable wedding dresses down the runway, one a black, voluptuously draped dress in textured black silk with an unusual veil made of polka dotted blue, olive green, and ivory tulle. The model wore huge dangling “9” shaped earrings, a number that symbolizes “universal love, spiritual law and spiritual awakening,” according to Kronthaler. Bella Hadid closed the show in a stunning white lace Victorian bridal gown with leg-of-mutton sleeves, chandelier crystal earrings, and a leather belt equipped with a dagger. Maybe not your typical bride, but after all the Vivienne Westwood woman is unconventional and empowered.