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The collection notes began with an encompassing quote, pulled from the memories of the late, and always great, Dame Vivienne Westwood: “Andreas bought me Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1774). It was the first tragic novel, and it caused a sensation – and was one of the factors which led to the Romantic movement. Napoleon took ‘Werther’ on his Egyptian campaign in 1798 – and when he met Goethe in 1808, he told him that he had read the book seven times – he decorated him. It is still a model of literature in the education curriculum across Europe.”

Goethe, and the time period in which he completed his writings, was the point of departure for the AW24 Vivienne Westwood collection. Looking to the early 19th century ‘Empire style’ movement, the Napoleonic aesthetic and the extravagant opulence of Imperial Rome, the resulting clothes were this: historical silhouettes, subverted. That meant sleeves were full, collars were high and drapery was commonplace.

Panoplies of tartan – Lochcarron of Scotland wool or printed – were shaped into outerwear, tailoring, shirts and dresses while Earth tone vertical stripes bedecked double-breasted suits. The brand’s archival ‘90s Salon print was given new life in liquidy jersey dresses as well as a number of undergarments. These were paired with dismantled metallic knitwear, satin tailoring or velvet brocade corsetry for a regal look.

Ensembles were rooted in military codes and the aesthetics of Classical antiquity. Accessories were polished with equestrian leather and even more tartan. The frogging on ripped knits and bustle skirts was impeccable. Always the activist, the brand made a statement drawing attention to consumer waste by creating a kind of camouflage from its archival Rubbish print which is interpolated into an intricately ruched shirtdress. A modernised version of the print, characterised by current graffiti artworks and felt tip scribblings, also cropped up in the Westwood Cobrax corset and Double Waistband Foam skirt.

The campaign, lensed by William Waterworth, turned to a bucolic background to display the clothes. Models meandered amid a pastoral English farm, many of them surrounded by bare trees. There was an air of romanticism to it. Perhaps a countryside escape is the new Maldives? Maybe not, but where Vivienne Westwood is involved we’re coming along no matter the destination.

Photography by William Waterworth.