Designer Vivienne Westwood turns London Fashion Week catwalk into austerity protest

Designer Vivienne Westwood (centre) receives the applause following her presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015.
Designer Vivienne Westwood (centre) receives the applause following her presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (centre) takes part in a demonstration ahead of her show during the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015.
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (centre) takes part in a demonstration ahead of her show during the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood (3rd left) arrives with activists before the presentation of the Vivienne Westwood Red Label Spring/Summer 2016 collection during London Fashion Week on Sept 20, 2015.
Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood (3rd left) arrives with activists before the presentation of the Vivienne Westwood Red Label Spring/Summer 2016 collection during London Fashion Week on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015.
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015.
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015.
A model presents a creation by designer Vivienne Westwood during a presentation at the Spring / Summer 2016 London Fashion Week in London on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British designer Vivienne Westwood transformed the catwalk into a protest march at London Fashion Week on Sunday, blending style with politics and sharp tailoring with anti-austerity placards.

The long-time rebel and activist held the launch of her spring-summer 2016 runway show for her Red Line collection in the basement of the University of Westminster.

As fashion writers and celebrities took their seats, the lights went down and the sound of a siren announced the show had begun.

A group of people took to the floodlit catwalk holding placards reading "Climate Revolution", "Austerity is a Crime" and "Fracking is a Crime", referring to the controversial method of extracting shale gas.

"It's incredibly important... to be political because we face incredible danger from our politicians and we've got to stop them!" Westwood, 74, wrote in a letter given to each guest. "They cause climate change and war... they're taking us to mass extinction and we have to do something."

She seemed to have in her sights the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, an enthusiastic backer of fracking.

Just last week, she rode an armoured vehicle to his home in protest at the policy.

Her protesters brandished their placards outside the fashion show venue before she later led them onto the catwalk.

Her collection seemed inspired by activists.

Models wore draped and ruched clothing with a vintage, mish-mash feel, many with badges pinned on their lapels and their faces daubed with black paint.