Vivienne Westwood’s fall ’92 collection was all about Marlene Dietrich

welcome to forgotten tracka deep dive into some of the more niche presentations in fashion history – which still have an impact to this day. In this new series, writer Kristen Bateman interviews the designers and people who made these productions, revealing what made each one so special.

Vivienne Westwood’s 1992 fall show was filled with fashion muses parading the catwalk, posing as fully animated caricatures of old Hollywood stars. In the corridor of a Parisian museum covered with red curtains, the show, entitled “Always on Camera“, featured a female air pilot wearing a silver metallic cap and draped pants, a silver screen starlet in the now infamous Frans Hals lace trimmed babyface corset and fake daytime TV deans donning severely tailored suits in pink leopard print with matching massive heart-shaped bags. “The inspiration for the show was, clearly, Marlene Dietrich and the Hollywood era of the silver screen,” says Andreas Kronthaler, creative partner of Vivienne Westwood and husband of decades who co-designed the collection. O. “She is one of the most remarkable film actresses in terms of the image she has created for herself, especially with the help of her early director, Josef von Sternberg, who took her looks to extremes. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it since.

“Always on Camera”, although not talked about as much as some of Westwood’s other shows, left a major impact on fashion and Westwood’s entire oeuvre. It was the first time the label had been displayed outside of Azzedine Alaïa’s home and studio in the Marais district of Paris, establishing the brand as a major player in the European fashion scene. The introduction of pink leopard print would become a house code, later covering shoes, handbags, socks and corsets. Carrie Bradshaw even carried a luggage trunk with the design on an episode of sex and the city.

By the time “Always on Camera” took place in 1992, Vivienne Westwood had become a powerful voice in the industry, particularly as a designer who was constantly pushing the fashion conversation forward, pushing the boundaries that touched politics and socio-economics. She creates new silhouettes to which her contemporaries like Jean Paul Gaultier will later refer. (Take, for example, the conical bra, undergarment-like outerwear seen in her Spring 1982 “Buffalo/Nostalgia of Mud” collection, or the crini mini-skirt she featured between 1985 and 1987, designed as a new version of the Victorian crinoline. This style challenged the longer, more demure puffy skirts published by Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix at the time.) “Always on Camera” was a character study of the narration of fashion.

Today, it’s nearly impossible to browse social media without seeing a Vivienne Westwood piece worn by the biggest stars. Corsets and pearl necklaces have gained huge popularity for a new generation on TikTok, and there’s an explosion of stock footage of Vivienne Westwood popping up on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, where accounts inspired by paintings mood like @thewestwoodarchives go viral every time they post.

In 1992, the presence of the designer was equally felt in the fashion industry. The way Westwood interpreted the prints was unequivocally unique, as she often worked with fine art references. For “Always on Camera,” she took Dietrich’s abstract image and pushed it into new territory: putting an iconic photo of Dietrich posing in front of a car wearing a men’s suit and transposing it onto denim.

A look from Vivienne Westwood’s “Always on Camera” collection, 1992.

“There was a lot of denim in this collection where we engraved Marlene Dietrich’s face on the fabric and cut out the clothes – the eyes on the back pocket, the lips on the crotch. We played with her image, made layers, cut out denim jackets and skirts,” says Kronthaler. The hand knit pieces have been printed with shimmering lace and topped with padding around the chest and shoulders for an extreme silhouette. Hairstylist Mark Lopez created vintage-inspired headpieces that looked like decades past.

Dietrich’s movie Morocco was a major inspiration for Kronthaler, he tells me thinking back: “Those very drawn eyebrows and this very particular beauty that strikes you, and she says the words with a soft German accent: ‘I don’t need any help,” he recalls Blond Venus, 1932, in which the actress is disguised as a gorilla and performs a striptease. So, the devil is a woman, from 1935: “Costumes are the absolute end of what is possible”, he adds. “They are made by Travis Banton. It’s the greatest costume movie ever made, and it didn’t just inspire me, it inspired every fashion designer I know.

A look from Vivienne Westwood’s “Always on Camera” collection, 1992.

Photograph © firstVIEW/IMAXtree Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Fall Winter 1992/93 ‘Always on Camera.’ Excerpt from “Vivienne Westwood Catwalk: The Complete Collections” by Alexander Fury with contributions from Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler. Published by Thames & Hudson, 2021.

Of course, Dietrich was known for her androgynous style and penchant for costumes. “Another important part of the collection is the suit, which was made in a very special tweed – we had it woven in Scotland – and we made these exaggerated men’s suits,” says Kronthaler. “Of course, the big thing about it all was the proportion, which was achieved through raised platforms that lifted the girls to an extreme height. They were 22 centimeters taller than they were supposed to be. be, wearing heels tucked under these elongated Marlene Dietrich pants.

A few of the tracks also touched on Westwood’s punk foundation. “I remember there were garments made out of ‘display’ velvet – a long trench coat with matching shocking pink hair,” adds Kronthaler, recalling Westwood’s early work, which incorporated rubber, pins safety and other non-traditional materials. “Shocking pink is the color of this era, and we’ve always done things with the most unusual fabrics.”

A look from Vivienne Westwood’s “Always on Camera” collection, 1992.

Dietrich being the big inspiration behind the show, the brand invited her to attend and sit in the front row; Unfortunately, she couldn’t come. “We made him an invitation to Avenue Montaigne because of course, everyone who has the choice wants to spend the autumn of their life in Paris”, recalls Kronthaler. “But she was too sick at the time and died about a month later in her 90s.”

True to most Vivienne Westwood runways of the 1990s, the finale of “Always on Camera” saw a procession of grand ballgowns waltzing down the runway. This time they were in tulle, printed in shimmering trompe l’oeil lace, resembling Dietrich herself in the 1947 film golden earrings, in which she plays a glamorous nomadic gypsy. “The title of the ‘Always on Camera’ collection had a lot to do with the philosophy at the time,” says Kronthaler. “‘Always get dressed, because you’re always in front of the camera’ – and, anyway, you never know what’s going on… You always want to look the best you can, because that’s It’s the first impression you make that will last forever.” Few creators explore fantasy like Westwood does, and few cinematic icons have their own unique style like Dietrich did.

Comments are closed.