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Gareth Pugh’s S/S 09 collection, his first since winning the ANDAM prize, gave the first great jolt to Paris Fashion Week with a show that retained his precise point of view but stunned naysayers with the slickness of its presentation. An industrial space at the Palais De Tokyo with light filtering through the glass ceiling and emanating from fluoresecent tubes on the ground, was an unusually bright venue for a Gareth Pugh show but as the music cranked up, and the first model stomped out in the first of a series of perfectly articulated armour, rendered in a strictly monochrome palette, the same old energy and excitement of his London shows came roaring back. Pugh explained this choice of venue backstage after the show, “I was happy to show it in a house! But Rick (Owens, mentor) suggested the Palais De Tokyo. We knew that coming to Paris that we had to step it up.”
It was a fascinating, ambitious show that explored his ongoing fascination with architecture and dramatic silhouettes, in a way that recalled Margiela’s attempts to provide a superhuman dimension to the human body. Styled by Dazed’s own Katie Shillingford, the warrior women of the show included some of the biggest names in modelling and came adorned with black and white eyelashes, latex leggings and two tone wedges, their hair scraped back, ready for battle. It was a study of contrasts - exaggerrated Shakespearean ruffs were paired with futuristic body armour, black played off white. If one thought of Star Wars as a reference, Pugh cited a more classical source for inspiration, “I was thinking of Millais’ painting of Ophelia where you can’t tell if she’s drowning or rising from the water.”
The fabrics this season were lighter (“Well, it IS Spring/ summer!” he exclaimed) and even included chiffon among the leather and plastic. There was also a softening of his diamond-hard aesthetic and a sense of romance creeping in, with some very desirable and wearable pieces amongst the high drama, as a result of having his garments produced in the same factory as Rick Owens. On the basis of this powerful showing, Pugh could very well be joining McQueen and Galliano in that elite clique of highly idiosyncratic British auteurs making a mark at Paris Fashion Week