Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood re-imagine Eliza Doolittle for a post pandemic world.
Even the most enduring partnerships (both creative and otherwise) were put to the test this past year. For fashion power couple Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, though, the pandemic was just another source of inspiration. “I have loved being with Vivienne this last year, I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling,” says Kronthaler, who posts frequent artful visions of his wife and muse on Instagram.
For their Fall 2021 collection, they drew inspiration from My Fair Lady, and created an homage titled Mayfair Lady as a wink to protagonist Eliza Doolittle’s cockney mispronunciation of the London neighbourhood where the Vivienne Westwood boutique can be found. The collection offers many visions of near-future dressing conceived and produced consciously – from cozy loungewear, to extravagant bodice work in sustainable fabrics such as eco chine jacquard and viscose certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Salvaged materials ring in a new kind of glamour. An extravagant gold dress, for instance, is made up of left-over offcuts of French lace from the duo’s atelier.
Amongst the look book’s models, singer Caroline Polachek stars as a latter-day Doolittle, while Malik Sharpe refreshes the role of Freddy. Westwood’s appearance as a self-described “witch with long white hair,” presents an omnipresent reminder to “buy less, choose well, make it last.” Here, Kronthaler and Westwood share the inspiration for Fall 2021.
There are so many interpretations of lady within this look book. What meaning do you give that word both generally and within the context of the collection?
There is a ‘lady’ in every lady… to me a lady and a woman are the same. I like to glorify women. The inspiration for the shoot is not so literal within the collection itself… We worked with Prudence [Millinery] to make us these fantastic hats; so of course, we were thinking of Cecil Beaton.
More specifically, My Fair Lady – can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration?
I saw the film when I was very little on the television, I must have been in kindergarten. You can imagine the impression that film made on me! The concept for the shoot came after the collection, born from our newly decorated shop at 6 Davies Street Mayfair. We put it at the heart of our presentation. ‘Mayfair Lady.’
I love the spontaneity of the Mayfair shoot. Have the current constraints on fashion shows been freeing? If so, how?
I very much miss the fashion shows, but what I miss SO much more is Paris. I miss not seeing Paris for so long now and I miss my friends there.
Because of the situation we are in at present, it was so nice to venture out into the streets to shoot this collection. It is so quiet everywhere. In that sense, we took advantage of the moment.
What drew you to Caroline and Malik for this shoot?
I saw a picture of Caroline and I immediately liked the look of her. There was ‘something’ – she oozes sophistication, thoughtfulness, which is very rare. We were lucky as she usually lives in L.A. but came to London during the pandemic and stayed here. She’s a great singer, I like her songs very much. During the shoot we got to know her; we’re very fond of her. I find her terribly inspiring.
Malik is a great dancer, they can sing – we were looking for that – they make a very compelling Freddy. A different one, but a good one. We loved their pink hair.
What are some things you hope we can leave in the past when life comes back? Both in fashion and generally.
Zooms: I’m happy to not have had to deal with them much.
Online shopping: I miss shops very much, who doesn’t. You need to get up to buy an evening gown, try it on, feel it.
The peek-a-boo and transparent layers feel sexy; what was your inspiration there?
To give the feeling that you’re looking through a shop window.
How has working together changed in the last year? What have you enjoyed about it from a creative partnership perspective?
I feel like I have been working very hard over this period – harder than ever perhaps. Of course, this is because circumstances are difficult, so everything feels harder. Nothing has changed with Vivienne and I in this time. But what really gave it a rhythm is dressing her up for her Friday speeches. It has helped define the days of the week, and gives us structure: for me, on a creative note dressing Vivienne; and for Vivienne, focusing on her activism.