The fashion world breathed a sigh of relief when it saw this year’s schedule – Vivienne Westwood was returning to the catwalk, after two seasons of just doing digital presentations.
As the grand dame of British fashion, you can always expect quite the show from Westwood, with drama and politics being top of the agenda. In the build-up to the event, the brand posted cryptic messages on its social channels, saying the show was called ‘Homo Loquax’.
In his 2006 Jefferson lecture, the American novelist Thomas Wolfe describes how he prefers to call humans Homo loquax instead of Homo sapiens – which means "man talking" compared to "man reasoning".
So, how did Homo loquax fit in with the show itself? Well, it can only loosely be called a fashion show. In fact, it was more like a piece of performance art – models did walk down the catwalk, but every few minutes they would stop and give short soliloquies or have conversations with each other. This was a passionate plea to save the planet, and a reflection of Westwood’s dire predictions for where the world is going.
It was, in a way, quite a bleak outlook – phrases like "Democracy isn’t working" and "No future for you" aren’t exactly ‘normal’ for London Fashion Week. But perhaps Westwood is trying to shock the fashion world – and the world at large – into action.
Models stopping to speak is almost unheard of during fashion week, but these were no ordinary models. Many of them were activists and other famous faces – including Rose McGowan, who was dressed as the angel of democracy. The exec director of Greenpeace John Sauven even made an appearance to declare: "It’s time that we reshuffled the cards and dealt a new hand for the seven billion people living on earth, and the planet itself."
Westwood came out at the end saying: "Something has to happen this year." And then started singing (let’s just say she found her calling as a designer and not a musician, although she did jokingly add, "It’s the microphone, not me.").
You can’t deny the passion and the drama, but it was hard not to feel like the whole thing was quite disjointed. Westwood’s main aim is to tackle climate change, and you really can’t fault the the way she uses her platform to raise awareness around such a serious problem. It was just quite hard to decipher from watching the show how she plans to fix the issues at hand.
And what of the clothes? They weren’t really the point, to be honest – Westwood seemed to be more preoccupied with the message of the show. Many of Westwood’s signature looks – loose tailoring, herringbone prints, grungy T-shirts with scrawled slogans and makeshift crowns – were seen throughout the show, though.
Westwood is the kind of person constantly looking to the future – in her message and in the way she does her shows. The fact that there was such age and body diversity on the catwalk was heartening – hopefully Westwood is leading the charge in this aspect of fashion, as well as in her activism.