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Taking a look back at some of our iconic Paris fashion shows
Vivienne Westwood’s Paris flagship store has just opened shop but her relationship with the city is anything but new. From Buffalo Gals to Belle Epoch ladies, Paris has been central to some of her most memorable collections. To celebrate her arrival in Paris here are a few moments from her own history with the city.
‘Mud, mud, glorious mud’
It was in 1982 with Malcolm McLaren that Vivienne Westwood showed in Paris for the first time. Traditionally collections were shown in the tents at the Louvre but Malcolm and Vivienne proposed something all together different at Angelina, a teahouse on the Rue du Rivoli.
Opened in 1903 by an Austrian confectioner and decorated in the Belle Époque style by Édouard-Jean Niermans, Angelina is a Parisian institution. Malcolm and Vivienne blew some life into the place with their Buffalo Girls (Nostalgia of Mud) collection. They took us to far away places with far away sounds, South America via the Bronx in sheepskins and bag boots. The collection, as with all of their collaborative efforts, remains highly coveted and as influential as ever. Vivienne herself revisits Buffalo periodically with new takes on beloved classics.
Both Angelina and the Buffalo collection have since taken on lives of their own. Lines of tourists form daily waiting patiently to taste l’Africain (hot chocolate) while the Buffalo hat continues to sell out nearly 35 years later.
Vive La Libertine!
It was freethinking libertines like Ninon de Lenclos that Vivienne looked to for her AW95/96 collection Vive La Cocotte. Ninon was one of the most celebrated and cultivated courtesans of 17th century France. The collection, shown at the Carrousel du Louvre, was a wardrobe of possibilities meaning to stop traffic and bring the wearer a richer life perhaps like that of La Ninon.
Bum cages and padded bras were a foundation to the exaggerated silhouette presented for Vive La Cocotte. This silhouette referenced 17th and 18th century salon attire for women. Classic tartans and tweeds gave it modernity. Andreas could be seen giving models a peck on the cheek before sending them out.
During the Carrousel’s construction fortified walls dating back to the reign of Charles V were discovered. These walls defined the city limits of 14th century Paris and can be seen today down in the Carrousel alongside 17th century sculptures.
La Belle Vivienne
The SS94 collection Café Society is arguably the pinnacle of Vivienne Westwood’s output during the 90s. The collection was presented at Le Grand Hôtel in the stunning Salon Opéra. The intersection of boulevards near the hotel was the epicentre of Paris during the Belle Époque. It’s where café culture and fashion met. Fashion houses of the time were all located nearby and the English Charles Worth, the 1st couturier, ruled with his revolutionary ideas in design.
This exchange of cultures between the English and French inspired Café Society. The pigeon silhouette was presented in pastels, pinstripes and granny knits. Tiny skirts, gigot jackets and ballroom size dresses were punctuated with boudoir caps and rocking horse wedges. Café Society paid homage to Worth and like Worth it showed that Vivienne too could out French the French!
Having shown in Paris continually for the last 25 years the city remains a source of inspiration for both Vivienne and Andreas. It’s where earlier this year Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, the newly renamed Gold Label, made its debut at the Palais de Tokyo marking a new era for the much loved designers.
Text and photos by Paris based artist Sunny Suits.