Vivienne, Leave Kate's Panda Eyes Alone

09/08/2011 12:13 | Updated 22 May 2015

Forget the riots - the issue that's getting fashion circles riled up at the moment is the Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton - specifically the application of kohl around the rim of her eyes.

This weekend Vivienne Westwood, a designer whom I have admired over the years as much for her pioneering punk style and impeccable historical-referencing design as for her political activism an f*ck you attitude, chose to focus her energies on the Duchess' beauty and fashion choices.

Dame Vivienne says that Catherine's fashion sense, which she previously deemed undeserving of a Vivienne Westwood wedding dresses, "might be improving." But she doesn't approve just yet. "It seems to me," the fashion icon stated in an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine, "that her image is 'ordinary woman.' Therefore, highstreet shopper. And I just think she should be an extraordinary woman, wherever she gets her clothes from."

The makeup is a particular cause for concern: "I think she's got a problem with eye makeup! The sharp line around her eyes makes her look hard. Either she should be smudgy or wear none."

She's not the first to criticise the princess' heavy eyeliner. In an interview last month with Grazia, fashion duo Viktor & Rolf also commented on the same thing: '[We'd like to see her wearing ] different makeup and hair - less eyeliner, less hair. It would bring out her natural beauty".

I don't want to replicate Kate Middleton's fashion sense or indeed beauty regime. I have felt no inclination to buy an Issa wrap-dress, nor a stonking great sapphire ring, and in the list of 'women who's style I admire' in my head, the Duchess isn't even placed. But I still don't understand the designers' desire to criticise her so publicly.

As fashion brands, what both Viktor & Rolf and Vivienne Westwood share is a renegade approach and refusal to conform to trends. For Viktor & Rolf's autumn/winter 2007/08 collection, each model wore scaffolding with her own lights and music, carrying their own fashion show as it were, while Westwood famously started her career by referencing S&M, leather-clad bikers and prostitutes in her designs. With their imaginative and non-conformist approach to style, you'd expect these individuals to be the last in the fashion industry to pass judgement on what someone else is wearing. But, apparently, that's not how it works.

While the fashion industry prides itself on tolerance and individualism, what it can't stand is the shocking reality that some individuals just aren't that bothered about it. Catherine Middleton has her moments - but her style is not ground-breaking and her liberal use of kohl might just be ill-advised. But you know what? It doesn't matter. The worst thing that the fashion industry can be seen as is prescriptive. What Westwood and Viktor & Rolf fail to recognise is that the same freedom that allows them to create insane, bizarre and beautiful fashion is the same freedom that allows Catherine Middleton to wear 'bad' eye makeup. It's about personal choice. So with that in mind, maybe they should stop berating the ordinary - and instead concentrate on creating more boundary-smashing fashion design.


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