Interview by Filep Motwary
Andreas Kronthaler—Vivienne Westwood’s Creative Director, design partner and husband—is undoubtedly charming, talented and bold. The first time I crossed paths with him in Paris was a few seasons back, on the right bank of the Seine, just outside a tent where Westwood was about to present her new collection only a few minutes
later. He was wearing a kilt, knee-high socks and although a sword was missing, he looked as if he had come straight out of an epic movie—one of those films you never forget. Then I saw him again sitting front row at the MMM Artisanal show, two to three seasons ago and his charm was still there, in jeans and shiny curls, big smile and sparkling eyes. Just before the hectic menswear week for fall/winter 2015/16, Andreas shared his thoughts on heroism, unisex clothing and Pope Francis with us.
FILEP MOTWARY: Andreas, thank you for this opportunity. I hope you don’t mind if I start by comparing “quiet” Austria to hectic, forward London? How would you describe your transition from one place to the other and how has the first affected the second, creatively?
ANDREAS KRONTHALER: I never left the Tyrol and I feel at home everywhere. I’m hyperactive by nature, so London suits me very well. I find all the different backgrounds, different classes and different races stimulating. I’m still so happy when I’m on my bike riding through London.
FM: How involved were you with fashion before moving to London and how did you form your aesthetics?
AK: I have been creating clothes since I was a child. At the age of 14, I went to art school in Graz, Austria, and trained to be a goldsmith. During that time I also experimented with textiles and sewing. I supported myself through school by making clothes for friends. I then went to the Vienna School of Applied Arts to study industrial
design—I continued making clothes on the side and developed my tailoring skills along the way. I soon realized that my interest was in fashion and reapplied to do the fashion design course.
FM: You met Vivienne whilst you were still a student. What was it that stimulated her interest?
AK: I think she very much liked how I looked at the world and I also think she always liked my grand gestures. On top of that, we were attracted to each other.
FM: Each collection has a political message—environmental information that engages more than the fashion industry. Why is there a need to create a manifesto within each new collection?
AK: We use fashion as a platform and it helps us to communicate things we care about, especially now that we face such danger from climate change.
FM: And how do you highlight the message each time? How do you think your audience receives this message—since most of the guests at every fashion show, in Paris or Milan, are people connected solely to fashion?
AK: It’s important to engage in issues that matter— fashion is the perfect place to start. One thing is the audience at a fashion show; another thing is the much wider audience on the net.
FM: How is this message communicated to the rest of the world?
AK: We use the graphics that we design for these causes in all of our collections. When anyone around the world sees these clothes they are becoming part of our efforts to spread this message around the world.
FM: Westwood men always seem to be heroic. Do you believe in heroes and how would you define the term? What would be a true hero today for you?
AK: Vivienne always says, “What we are talking about is: ‘Get a Life.’” You get out what you put in. A hero is somebody who tries to understand the world they live in—no holds barred. My hero is Pope Francis and I very much admire Prince Charles and Julian [Assange]. They make the world a better place.
FM: In previous centuries, monsters were created based on absence for logical explanation, stories that changed each time someone repeated them, fear etc. What about today?
AK: I’ve always recognized that my character is completely tolerant and I don’t like crowd psychology and hysteria. I try to put myself into other people’s shoes.
FM: What is beauty for you? Can a monster also be beautiful?
AK: The classic maxim: “Truth is beauty and beauty is truth”—that’s all that matters.
FM: And how do you separate the sexes, aesthetically?
AK: At the moment, I am interested in unisex clothes, so I’m very happy when it looks better on a woman—or the other way around.
FM: What binds us with a certain brand’s logo, to a look or a certain cut to such an extent that it becomes part of our own being?
AK: People always have a romantic idea of who they are. Clothes can help you to find this out. The more you stay true to your dream, the better you look.
FM: What inspires you and does it conflict at all with Vivienne’s ideas?
AK: We really do work with each other’s strengths. We can’t seem to do without each other. I physically collect visual impressions and sometimes file them away until I need them. I never stop.
FM: How difficult was it for you to enter an already defined signature and add your own aesthetics?
AK: Vivienne says I simply took over. I have to have what I want.
FM: What is your design procedure? How do you start each time?
AK: I explore as many possibilities as I can, then I start to take away and this can drive us all mad. I’m never satisfied, but I have to stop, because I run out of time.
FM: Why are Vivienne Westwood’s clothes so difficult to copy?
AK: In order to pin down an idea, you have to reduce it to its essence and that is a complicated process.
FM: Menswear still has enormous possibilities to be explored and even to be redefined. How do you see the evolution of men in the future and how will they be involved with their sex? Will certain clichés on men’s attitude change?
AK: I can’t really answer this question. I have never really thought about it before. You can’t predict fashion but you can analyse it a hundred ways with hindsight.
FM: What role does print play in the collections?
AK: I don’t really know how I decide on a print, but I know it has to be something I haven’t really seen in clothes. We love theatrical effects.
FM: How does sustainability work in the manic- consumerist society in which we live?
AK: For us, sustainability begins and ends with: “buy less, choose well, make it last”.
FM: How has the fashion industry shaped you?
AK: I find myself working in a very privileged world. What we are trying to do is very important. True fashion, the craft, has not been taken over by capitalism—it still keeps its values.
FM: What are your dreams for the company? How do you see it evolving in the future?
AK: We are working to reduce the company—to concentrate and control all our lines and products. We have weekly meetings, directed by our maxim: quality, not quantity. What we mean by control is: we have to like it..
Today, Vivienne Westwood is one of the most important British brands with an international presence and an incredibly strong brand identity. Andreas Kronthaler remains the Creative Director of the company overseeing the seasonal collection of four clothing ranges – Gold Label, Red Label, Man and Anglomania as well as bags, jewellery, footwear and eyewear.