CAMPAIGNS: Fashion PR - Media sees Red over Viv models

From staging catwalk shows featuring models wearing fake-fur G-strings and rubber skirts to twirling knickerless in front of Buckingham Palace with her OBE, 53-year-old Vivienne Westwood has always been a favourite with the media and buyers. As London is feted as the most ’swinging’ city in the world, Westwood chose to make her comeback from a self-imposed seven-year absence at this year’s London Fashion Week.

From staging catwalk shows featuring models wearing fake-fur

G-strings and rubber skirts to twirling knickerless in front of

Buckingham Palace with her OBE, 53-year-old Vivienne Westwood has always

been a favourite with the media and buyers. As London is feted as the

most ’swinging’ city in the world, Westwood chose to make her comeback

from a self-imposed seven-year absence at this year’s London Fashion

Week.



Objectives



To officially launch and promote Westwood’s Red Label diffusion line

which has been in existence for four years but never previously been

shown on the catwalk, and to differentiate it clearly from the

demi-couture Gold Label collection which is shown in Paris.



Tactics



After revealing her come back in late September, the press campaign was

put on hold until five days prior to Fashion Week, when Westwood

announced her plan to use young girls - one as young as 13 - recruited

from schools, stage schools and model agencies.



The decision appalled many. In the Scottish Herald, prospective

parliamentary candidate and the founder of the Conservative Family

Institute, Dr Adrian Rogers accused her of ’operating in a complete

moral vacuum’ and agony aunt Clare Rayner told the Guardian: ’It is very

sad that we should be putting children to work in this way ... you might

as well be putting them down a coal mine.’



’We didn’t use the young models to cause a sensation,’ says Westwood’s

spokeswoman Leila Cerullo. ’We used them because the collection is aimed

at a younger market and to prove a point that young people can look

beautiful in their mother’s clothes.’



Before the show, two major features to include sneak previews of the

clothes, were organised for the Evening Standard Hot Tickets and

Guardian Weekend magazines.



On the eve of London Fashion Week’s official opening, Westwood held two

intimate shows - at 3pm for press and celebrities and 5pm for buyers -

at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane - chosen to create a more

sophisticated atmosphere than the Natural History Museum tent. Guests

first entered the Gold and Silver Rooms where coffee was served before

entering the candlelit ballroom which was decorated in the style of a

debutantes’ ball.



Results



The show was a promotional success, generating a considerable amount of

national and international coverage before, during and after the

event.



After her prim and proper show, Vivienne Westwood’s coup was covered by

most of the nationals and most broadsheets used pictures on their front

covers.



’Everyone said they caused a moral panic for nothing because the girls

were absolutely covered,’ says Cerullo. ’After the show we had fantastic

press since everyone retracted the fact that we were using such young

models’.



Among the star studded audience sat a record 350 overseas

journalists.



CNN, CBS, La Republicca and the New York Times are a few examples of the

international interest.



Verdict



Queen Viv’s return to London could not have been more spectacular. The

perfect combination of timing, beautifully tailored clothes and

controversial models assured typical Westwood publicity.



’She used the controversy for publicity and then did a show that was as

innocent as any fashion show I have ever seen in my entire life and I

think that was very clever,’ says Suzannah Frankel, fashion director at

the Guardian.



With much of the coverage devoted to the controversy and not the clothes

one wonders whether this controversial campaign will backfire in the

sales department. But according to Vivienne Westwood’s office, the

collection has sold very well.



Client: Vivienne Westwood Red Label

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Launch of Vivienne Westwood’s new Red Label collection during

London Fashion Week.

Timescale: 23 February 1997

Cost: Undisclosed



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