Vivienne Westwood S/S16
Vivienne Westwood S/S16

This is the point in Paris Fashion Week where my brain is already tired, I’ve already over-used my fashion vocabulary, and my eyes hurt from the strain. So, when Dame Vivienne Westwood shows her gold collection, I find myself sitting here, staring, wondering how in the world I am supposed to describe this experience for you. Standard fashion conventions simply do not apply. We’re not going to talk about ruffles or shoulder cutouts or peplum or lace. There’s nothing about this show that feels like a regular fashion presentation other than the fact there were, presumably, human bodies walking down the runway. I have to add “presumably” to that statement because a number of faces are so completely covered she just might have snuck an alien or two into the mix. I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Dame Westwood’s shows always have a theme and this season she’s continuing her concern about global warming and focusing specifically on saving the city of Venice, which is about to be overtaken by all that water if you’ve not heard. Both are noble causes and it’s always good to have someone keeping those issues in front of people’s eyes. What either of them had to do with the, uhm, “clothes” coming down the runway is anyone’s guess, of course. Rarely do the contents of the runway seem to have any direct relation to the theme.

Instead, this allegedly spring/summer collection, with all its heavy organ, clattering xylophone, and tittering calliope, felt more like Dame Westwood was styling Tim Burton’s latest nightmare. The large overcoats worn over the head while still on the hanger, presenting a thoroughly headless look, sealed that look rather early into the collection. Another piece, glittering silver mesh that also looped well over the model’s head, had about the same silhouette as that of a certain long-haired monster that chased Bugs Bunny around an abandoned castle.

Okay, strip away the costuming and the presentation aspects, and what we find are some really smart looking jackets, and dresses that are gathered and tied in front. There are also some rather impressive suits in the mix, a couple that are covered in some fantastic applique. Give me four or five hours with the pieces on hangers and I’m sure we can come up with quite a lovely wardrobe. The contents are there, and when one finds them they are quite lovely and exciting. Getting through all the associated clutter is always the challenge.

Finishing up this season show is an ensemble best described as “all natural.” Dame Westwood’s “bride” sports green leggings, a very short white skirt from which “blooms” a long-stemmed flower that reaches up over the ruffled blue bandeau top. Of course, the “veil” is white tulle over a large-brimmed hat, before spilling down the back. I dare anyone to wear this to a garden party next spring. Please. Pretty please. I’ll be looking for the pictures.

Dame Westwood’s brilliance and continued activism is perpetually inspiring. Her creative clothes are nothing short of remarkable. I just need a much better way to describe the runway shows.  I’m not sure the correct verbiage even exists.

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