LONDON — You could be forgiven for thinking Vivienne Westwood had the royal wedding in mind when she designed her latest collection, themed on Lewis Carroll's mad queens and accessorised with crowns as hats.
But the grande dame of British fashion said her Red Label's autumn-winter 2011 designs had nothing to do with the forthcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton -- and revealed she would not be dressing the bride.
"I'd love to have dressed Kate Middleton but we'll have to wait until she catches up a bit in style," Westwood, 69, told reporters before her show Sunday at the Royal Courts of Justice, on day three of London Fashion Week.
The royal family are the focus of her latest collection, but through the warped view of Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking Glass", notably the constantly running Red Queen and the White Queen who falls through a bush.
The models had messy hairdos, some with rollers still in, while a number sported crowns as hats, made of wire or soft fabric, worn nonchalantly like a beanie, and some had headscarves similar to those worn by Queen Elizabeth II.
"We've ended up with a bizarre look at the royal family from an Alice in Wonderland point of view, it's all very dishevelled," Westwood said.
The regal theme was mixed up with characters from the legendary Portobello Road market, near where stylist Murray Blewett lives in west London, such as antique dealers, fruit and vegetable men, gentry and kids out on the town.
There were suits in checks and tartans, sexy dresses, a brightly-coloured cape made of feathers, and trousers and a dress patterned with the blue and gold fleur-de-lis that has long been associated with European monarchs.
Despite the season, shorts were very much in evidence, in a black velvet tuxedo suit, in brown silk boxers with a maroon jersey over knee-high socks, or in silk red boxers with a bronze distressed leather jacket.
Westwood said these were one of her favourite items of clothing, explaining: "Boxer shorts is a tip. If I were a young girl, I think it's a wonderful look. And I really like tights on top of things, tights on top of boxer shorts."
The designer herself was wearing a blue silk outfit based on a dancer's dress she saw on a recent trip to the ballet -- with a towel used as a shawl.
"It's very, very practical -- if somebody spills some wine over me I shan't mind," she quipped in her northern English accent.
Westwood was the highlight of a day of classic British style at London Fashion Week, including shows by Jasper Conran and Mulberry.
Conran based part of his collection on beatnick style, with all-black outfits of hotpants, knee high boots and a jacket with gold buttons, or belted tight trousers with a blouse open to the belly button.
He also embraced the sixties feel with shift dresses in black with large white block prints, soft slits on short skirts and a red-brown gilet made of squares of fabric meshed together with gold links.
Across town at the luxurious Claridges Hotel, the 40-year-old British label Mulberry went back to its English countryside roots by decking out the ballroom as a woodland complete with tweeting birds and even a dog on the catwalk.
There were matching cord skirts and jackets, pinafore dresses with big bronze buttons, worn with long socks or wader-style grey and brown leather wedges and topped off with cosy wool scarfs and the famous Mulberry bags.
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