Westwood takes helm at Britain Fashion Week

Westwood takes helm at Britain Fashion Week

British designer Vivienne Westwood takes the applause after her show at a venue in Smithfield Market, east London, during London Fashion week, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

LONDON (AP) — Rebel Vivienne Westwood told aspiring young designers Saturday not to waste their time with fashion, then wowed the London Fashion Week crowd with a unique mix of classic design and space-age, mile-high hair and rainbow makeup.

The result was a typical Westwood extravaganza: Champagne corks popping backstage as crowds thronged the orange-haired designer to congratulate her yet again.

"So pretty, I want to wear it all, I will wear it all," former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson said backstage as she tried to get close to Westwood.

The clothes, for Westwood's spring and summer 2012 Red Label collection, came from the last 20 years of her formidable archives, but the presentation was ultramodern thanks to the spectacular hair pieces worn by some of the models. Many hairpieces were tinted gold and white, while other models had their real hair piled eight to ten inches above their head, as if it was a unicorn's horn pointing straight up.

The models wore brightly colored makeup, include aqua-blue around the eyes, and some looked like burnished pieces of art as they strutted down the uneven stones at Smithfield Market, a venerable meat market that counts its history in centuries — it was a livestock market 800 years ago.

Only Westwood, with her roots in the punk movement, could stage a fashion show in the country's best known meat market without apologizing. Still, she seemed more interested in environmental issues than in fashion, using the show as a platform to tout a plan for saving the planet's rain forests from destruction.

"I use my fashion as an excuse always to talk about things on my political and cultural agenda," she said before the show began. "Fashion gave me a voice, it gave me credibility. People think I can do such and such so they are willing to listen to me, and that's really good."

Westwood said she is now working with a team of experts on a low-cost plan to save three of the world's principal rain forests from destruction by working with indigenous peoples. The plan will soon be announced and detailed, she said, and should be far less expensive that more conventional initiatives.

Westwood seemed unusually relaxed as her talented makeup and hair team created fanciful looks for the models, who had to risk their sky-high heels — and their balance — walking on a slightly uneven stone surface instead of a smooth catwalk.

She said her Red Label represents her low-cost line, not her experimental work.

"It's designed to make women look sexy," she said. "Fashion is there to help."

The designer, for four decades at the forefront of English fashion, downplayed her creative work and said she would advise young people drawn to a career in fashion to consider something more interesting instead.

The outspoken Westwood softened earlier criticism of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, conceding that the youthful royal had "looked quite good" in several of her recent appearances. Six months ago, she said Middleton wasn't very with it in a fashion sense and needed to take more risks.

But Westwood offered Middleton some instruction: recycle, recycle, recycle.

"My advice to her is to wear the same thing over and over and over," said Westwood, who has decried the practice of wearing an outfit only once as wasteful of resources.

She said Middleton should use her high profile to change the perception that there is something wrong with wearing an outfit more than once.

"I'm a big supporter of the royal family, and she is quite a good ambassador," said Westwood, who has in the past allied herself with Prince Charles in support of his environmental initiatives.

Westwood's show drew a number of celebrities, including artist Tracey Emin, who joined the crowds backstage to toast the designer.

"Even if I'm wearing shorts and Birkenstocks. I wear Vivienne every day because I always wear the perfume," Emin said.