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Vivienne Westwood AW16
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood AW16Photography Virginia Arcaro

Dame Viv unpacks the political message behind her show

The designer’s AW16 menswear show featured heels, dresses, a gold penis pendant necklace and lots of politics – in this short video she explains more

“Be Specific is the title of our men’s fashion show in Milan,” says Vivienne Westwood, speaking in the video below. “Be specific, save Venice, stop the cruise ships. Be specific, save the rainforest, cool earth. Be specific, save the ocean, stop the subsidiary to industrial fishing.” As always, this season, Westwood’s menswear show had a strong political undercurrent – presenting a new collection of clothing and accessories was only part of the agenda.

Along with the URLs to several environmental charities and a green energy company, the show invitation bore a handwritten (but photocopied) note from the designer. “Who do our politicians think they are?” it read, “Who gives them the right to wreck the earth?” Even from this invitation, Westwood’s fury at the government and the politicians she describes as “criminals” was palpable; as was her passion to protect the environment.

But of course, this was a fashion show so there were clothes too, and this season there was a definite sense of androgyny about them, with many pieces inspired by womenswear. Some (male) models wore wedges and high-heeled brogues, some wore dresses – asymmetrical and draped – while others wore tights. One, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek twist, wore a gold penis pendant around his neck. 

Westwood is a bastion of British fashion design, environmental activism and antiestablishment political sentiment – her AW16 menswear show was a fervent reminder of the fact.

Watch Vivienne Westwood talking about the show below: