NEW YORK -- Where Viv goes, theater follows. And the fashion show Tuesday night at Bergdorf Goodman was no exception.
With its sweeping garlands of fresh boxwood, lush arrangements of cock's comb and lilies, and tables decorated with silver epergnes of sugared nuts, candy and fresh fruits, the Vivienne Westwood fashion show was like a scene out of "Barry Lyndon."
Westwood, dressed in black with rhinestone jewelry that spelled out her name, sat at the center of the action, next to Bergdorf's president Dawn Mello. Around her buzzed a crowd of editors, photographers, young designers and the generally groovy.
Soon the lights dimmed, and models with bum-padding under their equestrian jackets and crocheted dresses began to pick their way down the aisle to a swelling score of Romantic orchestra music. More than one teetered or tripped on the infamous Westwood platform stilettos, or became entangled in a piece of flowing tartan. Dianne Brill closed the show in a spectacular knit dress that she augmented with a vampy walk.
"It's nerve-wracking to watch your own show," Westwood said afterward. "I'm much better off backstage. I thought the girls were all beautiful, but I wish we could have had a rehearsal first."
Then a crowd of admirers gathered around Westwood, including Betsey Johnson, who bowed down in front of her and said, "I'm not worthy." Johnson was sporting a pair of red Westwood high-heeled mary janes.
"Her clothes are very feminine, because they're about tits and ass," Johnson said. "The shoes make you sort of teetery and vulnerable."
And Mello said the presentation was "for effect.
"They are very wearable," she said. "If you look at the clothes, the detail is extraordinary. This is the first season we've had her, but I've always admired her direction. She's maybe the most important fashion leader we have today."
Other designers in the crowd included Kalinka, Kenneth Richard and Sophia Tezel.
"Obviously I'm a fan. Who isn't a fan?" said Richard, who stopped by on his way from the Visionaire party at Charles Cowles Gallery in SoHo."It's a designer-to-designer thing," Kalinka added.
While Westwood admitted she was a bit stunned by her enthusiastic reception -- including the standing ovation she received at the end of the show -- she certainly doesn't mind it.
"I'd love to do this kind of thing again," she said. "Bergdorf Goodman has done everything I could possibly want. They bought the collection so well."
The crowd thinned out fairly quickly, as Westwood and entourage went off to Le Colonial for a late dinner.
The next day, looking none the worse for her late night, the designer was at her new boutique on Bergdorf's third floor holding court at a trunk show, her first ever.
"The clothes are very strong," said Westwood. "Not everybody can wear them. When you wear my clothes you will be noticed.
"The clothes have a rapport with the body," she added. "These clothes are really quite tight. You think it's the wrong size at first."
This was evident when a thirtysomething woman stepped out of a dressing room wearing one of Westwood's black velvet super-tight corsets.
"I've got to really consider clothes for larger people," Westwood said.
Laura Kunian, a longtime Vivienne Westwood customer, was buying a corset, skirt, Bettina jacket and faux persian lamb jacket.
"I already bought, and I'm buying more," she said.
Asked what it is she likes about Westwood's clothes, she said, "They're short, the fabric is beautiful and the craftsmanship is beautiful."
The store said the black velvet corset, at $485, nearly sold out. The two-day trunk show brought in $55,000.
Westwood said the Bettina jacket, at $920, is named after a friend who was a model for Christian Dior and a wife of the Aga Khan. She gives most of her designs names, such as DL for Dangerous Liaisons, a gray jacket with red fur trim. There's also the Masturbation Skirt, which has fabric that's pushed up in front, and the Experience Skirt, a plaid, asymmetrical skirt.
"I can't remember why I named it that," Westwood said. "It's something sexual, anyway."
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