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Sporting Codes and Revolutionary Modes: Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood

05 March 2024

When Vivienne Westwood passed away in December 2022—a person we considered unstoppable, even eternal—the question of legacy and how hers would endure circulated in fashion’s highest milieus. Answering our prayers, Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s long-time collaborator, was bestowed with the honour of sustaining her irreverent vision and finding a continuous sense of the heroic. 

Kronthaler started with Vivienne Westwood in 1988 after moving to London from Austria, sleeping on the studio floor and poring over her archive after the other interns and studio assistants had left for the day. In 2016, Vivienne Westwood Gold Label was renamed Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood so that it would reflect Kronthaler's influence and position. 

The brand’s advertising campaigns since Westwood's passing have acted as a repatriation of her birthplace: a civil parish in the High Peak district of Derbyshire. Westwood described Tintwistle as a place where she was free to roam the “green hills of Derbyshire, the woods of Cheshire, and the moors of Yorkshire.” This same act of roaming was felt in Kronthaler’s presentation for Fall/Winter 2024. Opening with a performance by Viennese folk dance trio SunBengSitting x Sons of Sissy, the runway was sprinkled with people spinning, dancing, yodelling and chopping, playing on the notions of performance and history.

Following the chronological progression from "peak district to punk du jour," Kronthaler drew inspiration from the codpiece, which, when dressed in technical fabrics, resembled a jockstrap and evoked queer sporting culture (as Westwood explored in "Hypnos" Spring/Summer 1984).

English singer-songwriter Sam Smith wore a more conventional version of the codpiece with a Bruce of Kinnaird tartan overlay. The look was complete with a tartan cape jacket and staff in hand. Subsequent looks were accessorised with argyle socks, opera slippers, and shoes resembling wading boots. 

Further tropes of protective equipment, akin to that in contact sports, included an ultramarine blue top with shaped breasts and large padded shoulders aping the physique of gridiron shoulder pads. The concept of protective covering saw strange appendages resembling padded bra cups that hung like a bib around models' necks. These were a familiar trope from Kronthaler’s premier show, ‘Ok, It’s Showtime’ (Spring/Summer 2019). 

The closing looks drew heavily on Westwood codes, including those from ‘Cut, Slash, and Pull’, the inaugural collection that Westwood and Kronthaler worked on together for Spring/Summer 1991. In the final ‘bridal’ look, Kristen McMenamy paraded in a white dress with horizontal slashes. These perforations were made all over the fabric in a uniform pattern, much like those seen in broderie anglaise but on a bigger scale. For Westwood, distressing has its origins in the house's Pirate collection (1981–82), where fuller sleeves were presented with inserts of contrasting fabrics, harking back to the popular slashed sleeve styles of the 16th century, when mercenaries used pieces torn from tents and other textiles to weave and mend torn parts of their clothing. For Westwood, this lent the models a “gallant, swashbuckling look.”

With Kronthaler’s meticulous reverence and attention to the corpus that is Vivienne Westwood, he can draw on the techniques, history and values associated with the British house, as well as his own uncompromising vision. We can expect Kronthaler’s steady guardianship to offer a promising future as well as a few expected surprises. 

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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