Westwood supports Assange on London catwalk

LONDON Sun Feb 17, 2013 6:29pm EST

Vivienne Westwood joins her models on the catwalk after the Vivienne Westwood Red Label Autumn/Winter 2013 collection presentation during London Fashion Week, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Vivienne Westwood joins her models on the catwalk after the Vivienne Westwood Red Label Autumn/Winter 2013 collection presentation during London Fashion Week, February 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - British designer Vivienne Westwood showcased more than her fashion designs at London Fashion Week on Sunday by sporting a Julian Assange T-shirt in support of the WikiLeaks founder.

British designer Westwood selected a T-shirt emblazoned with her face and the words "I am Julian Assange" to wear at her Red Label fashion show, which sent models in ribbed, woolen dresses striding down the halls of London's Saatchi Gallery.

Elsewhere androgynous designs, sheepskin and silk dominated the catwalks at the five-day fashion week.

Westwood, a leading name on the London leg of the international fashion circuit, called Assange a "hero" and said she had raised 3,000 pounds ($4,700)for him through selling the T-shirts.

"I'm a big supporter of Julian Assange," Westwood told Reuters. "He's an incredible hero because he exposes the lies of the war mafia people."

"I love people who stick their necks out," she said.

Assange incensed the United States and its allies by using WikiLeaks to leak hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London since June to avoid extradition from Britain to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. He denies wrongdoing.

Over the years, designers have used London Fashion Week to make political statements, taking advantage of the international audience to garner maximum publicity for their causes.

Buyers from 39 different countries are attending and the British Fashion Council estimates orders of more than 100 million pounds are placed in London Fashion Week each season.

The direct value of the British fashion industry to Britain's $2.5 trillion economy is 21 billion pounds ($32.60 billion), the council said.

Music boomed through the white-washed corridors, where Westwood teamed purples, teals and neutral tones for her flowing skirts, simple knitwear and zebra print coats.

Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, as well British socialite sisters Peaches and Pixie Geldof were on the guest list.

"She is an original ... there's no one like Vivienne," Adams told Reuters on the sidelines of the event.

ANDROGENY

At Paul Smith, androgynous tailoring in jewel tones was punctuated by mini-dresses with a photograph of a Cuban room interior woven into the fabric.

Smith said sales for his three clothing lines were 9 percent higher than last year, spurring him to be more playful in his designs and use better fabrics.

"It's very Paul Smith - 'boy meets girl and she's borrowed his jacket', which I've done many years but it's pretty sexy this time," Smith told Reuters.

Earlier, Nicole Farhi presented sharp androgynous tailoring and knitted jumpers, while Matthew Williamson dazzled fashionistas with an array of dresses at the Royal Opera House.

Sequined patterns of roses were sewn onto sweaters and skirts with pleated detailing, while native Nordic costumes inspired embellished necklines.

"His shows are always joyous, so full of color and you just want to wear everything," said British model Twiggy.

Topshop's Unique label streamed its show of glossy leather skirts, sheepskin stoles and cropped jumpers live across the world via the brand's YouTube channel.

Models wore tiny cameras on their heads to give audiences a view from the catwalk as part of a partnership with social network Google+ to provide a 360-degree view of the show.

Nostalgia reigned elsewhere, as designers Alice Temperley and Emilia Wickstead, both favorites of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, honored Britain's rich fashion history with their creations.

Chain-linked trapeze dresses with matching swing coats created striking silhouettes at Temperley London, while silk day dresses in Thirties-style cuts paraded across the wooden floors of one of Mayfair's luxury hotels for Wickstead's show.

($1 = 0.6442 British pounds)

(Additional reporting by Li-mei Hoang, Rollo Ross and Katharina Urban-Oberberg; Editing by Alison Williams)