LONDON — Few designers so consistently mix fashion with politics, or manage to secure her fans' adoration with the same looks almost every season. But Vivienne Westwood is not any designer.
The flame-haired grand dame of British fashion on Sunday sent her models marching down the catwalk in her signature tight-fitting dresses and nipped-in jackets, then in the finale joined them wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a giant image of her own face and a slogan that reads "I'm Julian Assange."
Westwood, 71, has been selling the Assange T-shirts to raise funds and support for the WikiLeaks founder, who is living in Ecuador's embassy in London and trying to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault questions. The designer recently wore the shirt when she visited Assange in October.
As always, Westwood was less interested in talking about her designs than about climate change, a subject she has long campaigned about.
"There's no latest thing, it's all rubbish," she said, brushing off questions about fashion. Instead, she patiently explained to reporters why she feels so passionately about her climate change campaign.
"Every small thing you do can really change your life," she said. "And the first thing they must do is inform themselves, believe the scientists ... then they'll stop being consumers and start being more interested in the world."
It's anyone's guess how many people attending the Vivienne Westwood Red Label autumn collection shared her enthusiasm, but the crowds clearly appreciated the designs shown on the catwalk, which was set up at the Saatchi Gallery.
Although the makeup was startling – chalky white faces paired with eyes and lips outlined in stark, cartoonish lines – the clothes lived up to her legendary fame.
Jackets and blazers were beautifully tailored to accentuate the waist and hips, and dresses were draped in all the right places to draw the eye to the curves. The palette included a delicious plum, teals, and metallics.
There were dramatic pieces, for sure: a metallic zebra-stripe was printed on coats and a striking prom style dress with stiff underskirts, and an iridescent foil-like tight biker jacket that shimmered purple and green was paired with harem pants dripping in sequins.
Westwood isn't the first influential figure in the entertainment and fashion industries to declare their support for Assange. Pop singer Lady Gaga also paid a visit to the activist at Ecuador's embassy in London last year, though the pair didn't disclose what they discussed.