LONDON — Few designers could, or would, overshadow the models wearing their outfits. But Vivienne Westwood did just that Sunday, closing her London Fashion Week show by walking down the catwalk wearing a crazy printed T-shirt, shorts and makeup that looked as if she had a giant black eye.
It was all in the name of fighting climate change, the onetime punk priestess' favorite cause.
Westwood turned her highly anticipated show into a soapbox, using two models to unfurl a banner proclaiming a climate revolution, then strutting down the catwalk to call attention to the need for change.
The orange-haired diva was greeted with thunderous applause, partly out of adoration for her unique personality, and also in appreciation for a show that somehow made a bizarre combination of late 1950s and early 1960s looks seem at once glamorous and tongue-in-cheek.
"I loved it," former model Jo Wood said. "There was so much there that I wanted. And I love Vivienne as a person. She's the one show I won't miss. She always does what she believes in, and we should all be organic."
Westwood's show was one of Sunday's highlights on Day Three of London's twice-a-year extravaganza, which British Fashion Council chief Harold Tillman said was off to a flying start.
"The crowds are beyond expectations and the shows have been very professional and very fresh," said Tillman, who believes the Olympics have left Britain suffused in a pleasant afterglow. "People are feeling very good."
The Westwood show itself was unusual, with many of the models sporting distinctive makeup that gave their faces green, pink or lavender glows.
This contrasted sharply with some severe outfits dating from just before the "Mad Men" era, when U.S. first lady Mamie Eisenhower helped set conservative fashion trends.
Some outfits looked silly, others — evoking the Jackie Kennedy era that came a few years later — appeared wonderfully retro and chic.
Did the ensembles work? Westwood, ever the iconoclast, claimed she simply didn't care, insisting she was only interested in using fashion as a way to air her views on the environment.
Westwood wasn't the only person looking to the '50s and '60s for sizzle and spice. Sophia Loren was the inspiration behind Alice Temperley's London catwalk show Sunday, an elegant concoction of '50s full skirts fit for a royal garden party.
Temperley, a favorite of Kate and Pippa Middleton, said she wanted to update the 1950s couture look and make it accessible.
The designer said the conical hats the models wore exemplified the classic couture feel of the spring collection, which was set in a grand chandeliered hall.
"I wanted to create something modern and sleek, something that gives the feeling of the dream of couture," she said of the hats, which were similar to the style worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
Working from a soft palette dominated by powder blue and ivory, Temperley showed off flirty, tea-length circle skirts and dresses that accentuated a tiny waist. A theme was skirts with semi-sheer horizontal organza stripes, which Temperley said was to show a bit of leg and make the retro look more fun.
Textures were luxurious and soft with lace, silk, brocade and tulle with flower appliques.
Temperley is best known for her romantic evening and bridal gowns, and is launching a more affordable line at British department store John Lewis.
On Friday, Kate Middleton, now known as the Duchess of Cambridge, wore a Temperley ice blue dress with white lace sleeves to a tea party in Malaysia.
While other designers work summery watercolor hues and bold prints, Marios Schwab's catwalk show Sunday was a darkly seductive affair of shredded leather, smoldering midnight tones and tribal detailing.
Drawing inspiration from an idea of the Amazonian warrior, Schwab opened his show with a series of dresses in sheer layers of black and oxblood, decorated with leather tassels.
These tassels appeared throughout the show — adorning high heels or flat lace-up gladiator sandals, on lapels, in short parallel rows down the bodice, or strategically shielding the body on sheer gowns.
Schwab also created texture with pleating, which was used first on leather dresses in fuchsia and inky blue, then later on chiffon skirts paired with lace tops in the same hue.
Schwab's designs always play on seduction and have a mysterious femme fatale element to them, and his spring collection was no exception. Models' bare bodies were just visible under the layers of light material, and at times high slits on the pleated leather skirts revealed flesh-toned mesh layers beneath.
The final evening pieces — nude or sheer black high-collared column gowns embellished with tassels and beading — were dramatic showstoppers.
The Greco-Austrian designer's show was packed, with front row guests including Japanese Vogue's editor Anna Dello Russo.
Sunday's busy show schedule also included Paul Smith, Preen and Jonathan Saunders.