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Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood SS94, by Henry Benson
Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood SS94, by Henry Benson

Looking back at Vivienne Westwood’s sexually charged SS94 Cafe Society show

Following the passing of the legendary designer, revisit the beauty looks of one of Westwood’s most memorable, provocative catwalks

Originally published 13 August 2019.

The hair and make-up on the runway is often very experimental. Creative freedom combines with eclectic visions from designers to bring together the ultimate fantasy. Runway Retrospectives is a column that explores some of the most legendary catwalk beauty looks of all time. 


An icon of the punk era, British designer Vivienne Westwood first made a name for herself in the 1970s, thanks to her ripped up, safety-pinned t-shirts emblazoned with anti-establishment slogans that she sold alongside Malcolm McLaren out of her cult Kings Road shop, Sex. She began showing runway collections in the early 1980s and by the time the 90s rolled around, she had cemented herself as not only one of the most talented designers in England, but also one of the most provocative ones as well; referencing great historical periods only to subvert them, her shows were a spectacle of high drama and charged emotion. Spring 1994, or Cafe Society, as she dubbed it, was an example of that -- with models parading down the runway topless as they licked Magnum ice cream bars seductively on a leopard print carpet. 

As for the make-up and hair artists, the names of them have been lost to time even by Vivienne Westwood’s own archive team. Though the designer has a well-known, longstanding partnership with the makeup artist Val Garland, it was not until 2006 that they started working together. 

The show itself was filled with big-name models each who made their own powerful statement as they twirled, sashayed and even smoked cigarettes while moving down the runway. Eva Herzigova, Helena Christensen, Nadja Auermann, Kate Moss, Helena Barquilla, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon were a few of the famous faces who walked in the show, while Cindy Crawford, John Paul Gaultier and John Galliano sat front row watching. 


For the Cafe Society collection, Vivienne Westwood showcased a collection that picked up on a myriad of historical references. Models wore contrasting silhouettes -- while some, like Kate Moss, were topless and wore only micromini skirts (dubbed the “mini-crini," a subversive take on a classic crinoline) and the labels’ iconic orb necklaces or knitted thongs. Others were decked out in English Elizabethan couture-like gowns with Victorian bustles and remixed French rococo jackets covered in colourful pieces of tulle. 

There was a heavy emphasis on cleavage, and an expression of sexuality as Crakow shoes (a pointy, long style from the 15th century) were reappropriated and adorned with vibrators. As with the clothing, the same emphasis on satire and breaking down historical conventions was applied to the hair and make-up. 

For the hair, styles took cues from the Elizabethan era. During that time period, long hair was required to be curly. All models in the show wore textured curly coifs. Twisted into buns or elaborate updos, a few styles were covered in crystal clips (a strikingly modern contrast) while others were topped off with little boater hats, excessively large straw hats, or bows.

Most of the models’ faces were covered in powder that was applied to be visible and slightly lighter than what was natural. Lips were berry-hued lipstick and eyes accented in saffron. The look gave the show a definitive emphasis on contrast. Brows were styled thin and narrow, with high arches. Many of the models also wore fake, dark beauty spots on their cheeks. 

According to Women and Fashion: a New Look, Westwood described her mini-crini creation as a combination of, “representing a mythology of restriction and encumbrance in woman's dress and an equally dubious mythology of liberation.” The Elizabethan beauty references joined with the expressive sexuality seen within the show, inherently related to this ideology to taking a historical convention and subverting it. 


The show took place in Paris, at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel in 1994 – a hotel which still hosts many fashion shows within its walls today. Originally opened in 1862, the ornate interiors and lavish decor suited the bold aesthetic of the collection, hair and make-up. In addition to this, many famous faces and royalty such as King Edward VII of England and Queen Rania of Jordan stayed at the hotel. For Westwood, who has been showing in both London and Paris since the early 80s, Paris seems to be the place where she strives to present her most fantastical and dramatic shows, whereas she reserved London for her tamer presentations.


Cafe Society has earned its place as one of her most memorable collections in fashion history. Presented in 1994, it was a time when Westwood was at the height of her powers. Just a few years earlier, she was awarded an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. She accepted the award knickerless, which was photographed and printed in tabloids the world over. 

Cafe Society intrinsically represents Westwood, her aesthetics and her never-ending blend of historical cultures and references, which are often used to oppose all things conventional. “I’ve always had a political agenda. I’ve used fashion to challenge the status quo,” she once mused. By reappropriating the very traditional make-up and hairstyles of the Elizabethan era and placing them on the top supermodels in the world during the 1990s who for the most part are all wearing provocative clothing, she created something entirely new and shocking. 


To get the signature powdery complexion, use a powder shade that’s 1-2 shades lighter than your natural skin tone. Dust it on generously with a big kabuki brush, leaving your neck bare for dramatic effect. Apply a berry-hued lipstick such as Charlotte Tilbury's Hot Lips in Hel's Bells and gently blot the same product on the high parts of your cheeks. Use a matte, bright yellow eye shadow like NYX Professional Makeup Hot Singles Eyeshadow in STFU and brush the pigment on your lids just above the crease. To achieve the narrow brows, forgo product with the exception of a gel-like ColourPop Brow Boss Gel in clear and brush each one up into an angled shape. The secret to getting the ultra-textured, curly up-dos if your hair lacks the natural texture? A chopstick hair curler. Curl and pin it up with a hat or crystal clips.