vivienne westwood AUTUMN/WINTER 2015-16 MENSWEAR – milan

The reference promised reverence but proved trickier than a straightforward tribute. Dame Vivienne Westwood sang the praises of the Prince of Wales in her show notes with a paean to his spirituality, his organic farming, and his other Westwood-friendly preoccupations. She had, she pronounced, adopted him as the “patron” of the collection.

The first model duly emerged wearing an ensemble broadly appropriate as an homage to one of Savile Row’s most celebrated customers: windowpane-check gray trousers and a borderline tartan peaked jacket. Westwood’s banana skin was the pair of blue suede high heels.

Westwood and her husband, Andreas Kronthaler, have turned such acts of runway radicalism into a well-practiced routine, but even when you expect it, these shows have impact. Look-twice touches this time included British sterling banknote-print clothing (and great sneakers), an interesting spasm of one-shoulder Fred Flintstone stretch knitwear, a look featuring floral-lapelled eveningwear and a balaclava, and a cluster of butch men with clutch bags. And the guy who came out with his pants half-down.

All this slapstick was a laugh, as ever, but a distraction too: It obscured the richness of a collection that pulsed with poppy tailoring twists, radical casualwear, and fine footwear—even those heels, if that’s your bag. And sure, some of the shtick was a lighter way of enunciating the “relationship between men and women” theme that has been so current on both sides of the fashion-show calendar’s gender divide. The dame emerged wearing the prince on her chest, alongside her king.

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