By Gregory Katz, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) - Vivienne Westwood may be the last true eccentric at London Fashion Week, talking like a monarchist but showing radical, spacy clothes with models made up to look like Alice in Wonderland fantasy figures from outer space.
The nearly 70-year-old woman who decades ago was the high priestess of punk now talks about how much she admires the royal family - and feels they help uphold British values - but still brings an outlandish, colorful perspective to her designs.
And no, she's not shy about speaking out, refusing to be coy about whether she's been asked to design Kate Middleton's gown for her April 29 royal wedding with Prince William. The answer - sadly, she says - is no.
"I wish it was me but it's not," Westwood said Sunday before the show as last minute touches and alterations were made to the outfits and the makeup. "If it was, I would have been asked already. She already looks good, but I would have made her look better."
Take a look at photos from the show by Getty and scroll down to keep reading.
Westwood, like other star designers at fashion week, refused to be drawn on the issue of who has gotten the plum assignment, which is regarded as top secret in the trade. But the one-time rebel made clear she is a big fan of Prince Charles because of his environmental activism and said the royal family provides some inspiration for her Red Label collection for autumn and winter.
She said longtime collaborator Murray Blewett came up with the theme for the show based on his trips to London's Portobello Road market, with its mixture of many cultures, including influences from the Caribbean and also from the hippie era.
Then there was the multicolored makeup, including some placed on models' shoulders and necks, that gave the show an unworldly aura.
Some of it was beautiful - turning models' faces into an Impressionists' palette - while some was off-putting, including a model whose makeup made it look as if her lip had been bloodied.
The clothes were beautifully crafted and fitted, and some models sported hairstyles that made it seem as if they were wearing crowns. The black-skinned models looked particularly striking, with their black hair tinted gold, and one wearing what looked to be heavy gold metallic makeup or a gold mask that set off her outfit.
"The idea is that the royal family seems to be seen in this Alice in Wonderland way," Westwood said about the collection.
Artist Tracey Emin said after the show that she lacked the self-confidence to wear such a radical amount of brightly colored makeup, but she said the fall collection was a triumph.
"It was a gift," she said after the show as singer Boy George, retired tennis star Boris Becker and others paid tribute to Westwood. "It was brilliant, I loved the makeup, the way it went from completely over the top to just very beautiful makeup. It was dramatic and it made us really look at the fabrics and the colors a lot more. It was like we were being treated to something."
Westwood, long one of Britain's most celebrated designers, has made waves in recent years by complaining about rampant consumerism and advising her legions of fans to stop buying so many clothes, a novel approach as her popular Red Label brand continues to move into new markets.
She has also used her shows as a podium to demand action on climate change and other environmental concerns, an approach that might cost her financial backers if her clothes weren't so popular.
The one-time punk rebel whose clothes were designed to shock has become much more mainstream in recent years, even working on projects based on historical dress designs from earlier eras, when women were corseted and laced up by highly structured clothes rather than set free by loose, flouncy designs.
The Westwood look is unpredictable, but the clothes are always well-crafted and enticing. She seems to decry capitalism and its excesses, but has built an enduring business.
The simpler dresses on display Sunday were the most effective, including several sexy cocktails dresses, some in solid black and others in print. Hats were oversize, perhaps influenced by the "Alice" theme, and gave the collection a whimsical look.
Westwood's approach to life is just different from the other fashion week designers. She would rather tell reporters about the Greek philosopher Aristotle than about hemline lengths.
She said retiring is a constant temptation - she would have more time to read that way, to really get things done - but she feels she has to provide impetus to her design team.
She also takes a dim view of the future, blaming the gripping financial crisis on environmental problems.
"Everything is breaking down," she said.