As we hurtle past the halfway point of Paris Fashion Week, Saturday marked the arrival of a hugely anticipated and poignant moment, as Andreas Kronthaler staged his first Vivienne Westwood show without his ‘darling’ at his side. Following just a few weeks after the fashion industry came together at Southwark Cathedral to pay their last respects to the designer that changed it all, Westwood’s husband used their common language of clothing to honour her life and work.
Taking over a grand Rococo-era salon replete with parquet flooring, gilded walls, and crystal-dripping chandeliers, Kronthaler turned out a collection that referenced Westwood’s vast archives, and heavily featured some of her ‘favourite’ garments, like petticoats and the teetering platforms she was rarely pictured without. “You once said to me take everything away, just leave me my platform shoes because one can’t do without them,” Kronthaler wrote in an emotional set of press notes. “Maybe the most important thing you ever taught we was to put women on a pedestal,” he added.
Rifling through the vintage fabrics the two had collected over the years, Kronthaler debuted a series of looks crafted from their shared materials. “I hope you don’t mind,” he added within his notes. Strict corsets with sweetheart necklines exploded at the waist into cascades of taffeta, tweed jackets with nipped-in waists were layered over dramatic dress shirts in cotton and lace, kilts and their traditional regalia were swaddled around the body, while coquettish knitted sets comprising cropped sweaters and bum-grazing hotpants came sexy and skimpy. It was fun, cheeky, and a little saucy – much like the late designer herself.
With Kronthaler’s letter heart-wrenchingly detailing just how much he missed Westwood (“I long for you” they opened), the late designer’s granddaughter closed the show. Dressed in a while lace bodice, stacked platform heels, Cora Corré – the AW23 ‘bride’ – clutched a small posy of white flowers. Under usual circumstances, Westwood was presented with a bunch of blooms at the end of every show, and so for many in the audience – and likely even more so backstage – that Corré hung on to them even as she disappeared from view hammered home the loss of one of fashion’s true greats. Lucky, then, that we have her love Kronthaler to carry the torch.