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26th February 2023

Marc Jacobs’ NYFW Tribute to Vivienne Westwood

Marc Jacobs pays homage to the late Vivienne Westwood in New York Fashion Week. Integrating her famous designer markings, Jacobs celebrates the tremendous impact of Westwood’s designs on fashion history and future.
Marc Jacobs’ NYFW Tribute to Vivienne Westwood
Photo: Christian Leitner @ flickr

At the end of 2022, the world lost beloved icon Vivienne Westwood. Known for being an architect of punk fashion, and her famous orb logo, her passing represented a huge shift for fashion lovers around the world.

Following her memorial service in London earlier this year, a plethora of well-deserved tributes have been made in her name. Most recently Marc Jacobs’ show at  New York Fashion Week which he dedicated to the ‘Queen of British Fashion’.

Jacobs titled the show ‘Heroes’, writing  “To all of our heroes past, and, young heroes present,”  ending the show with a quote by Westwood herself: “Fashion is life-enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people.”

Jacobs and Westwood were somewhat kindred spirits in both of their approaches to fashion. Jacobs was fired from the fashion label Perry Ellis in 1992 following his ‘Grunge’ collection for the brand. Vogue described this collection as ‘the final shove’ that pushed Jacobs out of his job for Perry Ellis. Similarly, Westwood’s most notable work in fashion was through her pioneering of the punk movement throughout the 70s. She often faced shock and ridicule for her transformative designs, most notably on the Wogan show with Sue Lawley. So it is no surprise that Jacobs felt he should honour Westwood’s legacy in his latest collection, given their similar sensibilities.

The designer returned to his favourite runway location (Park Avenue Armory) for the first time since February 2020. The runway was minimalistic with the models walking from the dark into the light and a single violinist playing Philip Glass in the background. It was “[s]incere, emotional, genuine. These are not New York qualities, and yet Jacobs remains our ultimate keeper for the flame of New York Fashion,” said Rachel Tashjian for Harpers Bazaar.

His Spring 2023 collection featured his signature ‘Kiki’ boots which every model wore. Whilst these boots are infamous to any fan of Marc Jacobs, they do feel very Westwood who also loved a scarily towering high heel; see most of her collections but notably her Spring/Summer 1994 ‘Ready-to-Wear’ or the iconic 1993 show where Naomi Campbell fell down in Super Elevated Gillies heels.

Other elements were also clear homages to the late Westwood. These included bold splashes of colour, punk haircuts, and utilitarian shapes of the clothes. The models wore a lot of grey, black, and dark navy seen in many of Westwood’s ‘Anglomania’ collections which played on these colours as centric to British fashion.

A few models sported the more punky colours like bright red, pink, yellow, and blue which were also frequently attributed to Westwoodian collections. Many of the models had edgy chopped haircuts dyed in acid rainbow colours which felt very Vivienne Westwood Fall 2011.

Finally, the gathering and shaping of the garments also felt particularly tributary to Westwood who ‘saw the sexualization of the human form as something to be cut up and mocked, and then reclaimed… which is what made her bustiers so famous’ (note her Fall 1994 Ready-to-Wear collection). There were bustles, crinoline-inspired dresses, and trains with punk twists, which, when paired with the oversize shoulders and structured pieces looked as if they could have come straight from a Westwood runway.

WMagazine wrote that overall the collection felt “slightly off-kilter, a little vintage and a little weird […] just what we might expect from a Jacobs interpretation of Westwood’s work.” The “complex blouses” also echoed her legendary 1981 ‘Pirate Collection’.

However, Jacobs’ collection was about much more than just producing Westwood-inspired pieces; he captured her undeniable passion and the spirit of her work that she had been creating since the 1960s. He reminded us that “[w]e are not just commercial garmentos […] we are attitude, spirit, passion […] whether you’re a genius or a cynical copier, we are all here to create, to invent, to fashion.” A message which I believe Westwood would have believed and supported.

The loss of Vivienne Westwood has been deeply felt throughout the fashion industry and community but Marc Jacobs’ collection made it more concrete. One could argue that it’s the end of an era, but I would disagree. Westwood’s influences are undoubtedly going to continue long into the future so much so that I think to reduce her work down to simply an era would be doing her a disservice.

Vivienne Westwood has left such an impression on fashion which will stand the test of time.

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