They say you should never meet your heroes or in my case make that heroine with Vivienne Westwood. Thank God that old adage doesn't apply when it comes to Ms. Westwood. Tonight I skulked along the dark, rainy streets of the Strand and headed to the Royal Courts of Justice (oh Viv that’s so you -genius, a subversive yet beautiful fashion show in a British institution). It took all my courage to talk to her last season but tonight I went for it in the polite stalking stakes. She is not only the most exciting artist and designer she is also very, very warm and cool.
I loved the look at the show as the inspiration for hair and make up was very ghostly with the fabulous Gordon Espinet, Vice President of Global Make Up Artistry for MAC behind the look. Gordon said each girl’s look was very individualist and is based on black and white photos with a high contrast like Richard Avadon’s photography, as if the some girls were lit from the front and others from the right and left. The ethereal look was achieved by sculpting the face along the forehead, side of nose, cheekbones and upper lip with MAC’s lip pencil in Stone and a palette of taupe eyeshadows such as MAC’s Satin Taupe, Copperplate, Quarry was used on the face. With the models with darker skin tones, Gordon used aubergines and navies to get the look with MAC eye shadows in Shadowy Lady, Prussian and Fig. 1. The hair was created by Peter Gray using L’Oreal Professionnel products and he wanted to create textured hair like Mohair, which is very soft, ghostly and romantic. He backcombed the hell out of the hair and tonged it with a big barrel and then spread out the heated hair with his fingers to create the look. The nails by nail expert Sophy Robson also rocked and she said they were based on her mannequin manicure she did last season at Louis Vuitton and used a beige nail colour and matt finish top coat to get the hands to look dead. Darker skin tones should try a dark matt chocolate shade.
Being backstage at LFW you can really feel the fashion- beauty divide, it’s like the East coast v West coast rap beef of the late 90’s with Tupac and Biggie smalls. Lots of my old school friends have gone into both fashion and beauty and let’s just say all the mean girls went into fashion, you know the ones I’m talking about they would whisper, “what the f**k is she wearing?” behind people’s backs. On the other hand, beauty girls like myself would be the ones to try and make people feel and look better, by taking girls to the bathroom and saying, “let’s tone down that blush, have you ever tried a soft pink lip stain, it would really bring out the colour of your eyes”. Being backstage is no different than school. Among the roar and heat of hair dryers and screaming hangers on and models running in late from other shows the most talented and genius people hair stylists/ make up artists/ nail experts and designers always have the time, grace and good humour even under immense pressure to have a chat and giggle. It's always the Hollyoaks and socialite Z- listers and jumped up wannabe hungry (they can’t afford food and wouldn’t eat it if they could) fashion interns, who live in damp bedsits on the edge of the cool bits of East London, armed with a snarl and a clipboard on the door, who are rude and diva like. I always get bewildered stares as I march through the backstage area waving my pass from MAC.
Yesterday at a show someone clocked me and yelled security (wanker) because I'm black and well over a size 6, make that a galaxy over a size 6. Fashion can be fascist, elitist and painful but what I love and appreciate about it is the ideas, the art and the craft. Only a handful of people really have that gift where their clothes express ideas, a cultural mood, a statement and that's why I love Vivienne Westwood. Whatever her collection she always has a strong theme running through all her work, which is the ultimate oxymoron in that she is an anarchist and monarchist. This odd mix embodies British culture in my opinion. No one in the world understands how the British are so free -thinking (swinging 60s), avant garde (Alexander McQueen) with a sarcastic sense of humour and can produce the punk movement. However, we as a people we still have respect for the Queen, cream teas, institutions like the House of Lords and Claridges and the Rule of Law. Englishness equals British reserve with a stiff upper lip but after a few beers or mention of a knees up, the straightest of men can be seen dressing up in drag a la David Walliams faster than you can say Alex Reid. My American friends can’t believe how Walliams is engaged to Lara Stone, who is all woman and I tell them he’s bloody British-that’s how we do! Unlike France we have never had a revolution, we praise individualism, respect other people’s cultures and choices but in a lovely structured way. It’s this crazy and dotty Englishness, which I see in every Westwood collection from her use of heritage tweeds (very home counties) with a sexy twist, corsets and boudoir feel, pirates and general naughtiness.
Westwood is forward thinking and uses historical references (me likey) to understand the world around her. She loves the Wallace collection in central London. Growing up the Wallace Collection was like a church to me, dripping in 18th Century paintings and furnishing. When I found out Westwood also went there and was inspired by the art, the place became holy to me! I find Westwood very interesting in the way she sees the world. The past is there to help us understand the future and understand our nature. Nothing really changes that much because human nature doesn't change.
Backstage at Westwood there were a real mix of girls with dark models and I mean, proper black girls. Beyonce and Halle Berry are beautiful but I hate it when people use them in magazines to represent darker skin tones, as they don't really embody all of black beauty. They are ethnic enough to be mainstream but not too dark and African looking like Alek Wek to scare people. I love the fact Vivienne showed all sides of beauty with her choice of models. I asked her why she chose such dark models, as you don't see them on the catwalk that often and shamefully it feels controversial to have them in a show. She said, “we choose the prettiest girls for the catwalk. We look for girls with nice bodies with good attitudes and it doesn't matter whether they are black or white, they are simply the best”. I loved her even more for saying that tonight, for her colour blindness and I said, “bless you that's how it should be, thank you very much it's great to see”. Look around in ads and TV, everyone thought Naomi was going off on one when she spoke about racism in the industry but out of all the 90s supermodels how many beauty, make up campaigns has she had? God bless Vivienne Westwood for her ideas, inclusiveness (she goes up to a size 16) unheard of for high fashion and her diversity and the fact she doesn't see her model choices as diversity but simply as being pretty. Viva la Viv!