It was the catwalk show he hoped would never come; Andreas Kronthaler’s first without his mentor, muse and wife for 30 years, Dame Vivienne Westwood.
“I knew I had to get through this,” Kronthaler said backstage. “I thought it would be best to just keep going. Work is good, work helps. Sometimes grief comes, sometimes something as small as a handkerchief can trigger it. But the most important thing was just to keep going, that was my goal.”
Westwood died on December 29 last year at the age of 81. She had prepared Kronthaler, 57, for her successor in many ways since renaming her Gold Label Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood in 2016 and acknowledging his 25-year input on the line.
Kronthaler began working for Westwood in 1989 and the couple married in 1993. The couple designed together on a daily basis and always bowed hand in hand at the end of the runway shows. The spate of tributes and support from customers, fashion industry peers and the general public, Kronthaler said, has been a source of comfort over the past few months.
“It was difficult for me at first,” he admitted. “But she touched so many people, and not just in fashion. She was really quite amazing and brave and [the tributes were] wonderful. It helped to see all of that.”
On the runway, the opening look featured a layered blouse printed with a photo of the late fashion icon. Her signature was also embroidered onto several knitwear items.
Much of Kronthaler’s inspiration for the collection, he explained, came from sorting through closets. He recycled textiles the couple had collected over decades, typically found when they visited vintage markets together.
“I really made it out of little things,” he said. “Old things we collected that you always keep in the closet. I thought I could take them out and make a coat out of this old blanket, for example, or a large dirndl shawl out of an 18th-century hanging. We bought things at markets – there are a lot more in more closets – I wanted to give them a new life.”
In each individual outfit, the textile patchworks can range from tartans to pinstripes, plaid checks, shawl prints and metallics.
Referring to Westwood’s five-decade influence, Kronthaler said he particularly reconsidered the 1982 Buffalo collection.
“She described this Buffalo collection to me when I was very young,” he said. “She spoke of these noble savages who came down from the north and took over the city of London, and what they wore. I always remembered this connection to the nature of the country and I tried to show that a little bit.”
Cora Corré, Westwood’s granddaughter, wore the show’s only bridal outfit – traditionally the final look at every Westwood show.
The final look this time, however, was a dark tartan cape. Kronthaler modeled it himself and walked down the catwalk with his head bowed. It was an image so poignant that it brought tears to some in the audience.