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Gareth Pugh Womenswear S/S12

Optical illusions used on inflated skirts and criss-cross knitwear packed a punch at Gareth Pugh's collection

Gareth Pugh has been on a trajectory of softening his steely-hard aesthetic since he got to Paris, figuring out ways how to channel his genius ways of conveying structure and illusion with unusual materials. This season, it felt like Pugh had reconciled his past, learning to look back without banal repetition, which made for a stomping show to add to his back catalogue of other memorable stomping shows. It opened with a tortured film by Ruth Hogben where the emphasis was more about the graphicism of the clothes rather than the girl in the clothes. "It was more about the girl's movement and her motions rather than the clothes," explained Hogben after the show.

This powerful vision segued into a passage of horizontally striped leather strutwork minidress, caging and protecting the model. The leatherwork softened into criss-cross knitwear as well as monochromatic frock coats, panelled trousers and peplumed jackets that felt like familiar Pugh territory. The stripes on what we thought was the final passage in the collection were made to look like optical illusions where waves appear instead of straight lines due to movement, especially evident in the inflated skirts. Then a line of static broke and four creatures from Pugh's imagination emerged with pointed bulbous head masks in deep blue perspex, created by Phillip Treacy and sheaths of metallic blue lame with flames blazing in the background. It was powerful stuff and asserted what Pugh does best which is executing his uncompromising ideals for a woman with hardcore precision.

Dazed Digital: Was this more of a return to the harder aesthetic that you're known for?
Gareth Pugh:
It never went away and it was always in the background. I think I was looking back a little bit with this collection. It started very hard and got gradually softer. The end section with the black and white was about the idea of creating opposing energy in a battery - negative and positive - and making that work in the clothes.

DD: Was there a sort of optical illusion going on with the striped pieces?
Gareth Pugh: When you shake the stripes, you can see a sort of rainbow because black absorbs all the colour and white reflects it and I quite like the effect of seeing colour instead of black and white.

DD: Then you hit us with a the blue lame as well as some incredible hats - how was it working with Phillip Treacy?
Gareth Pugh: The last bit was supposed to be like static in electricity. It was great working with Phillip as I'd never done anything like that before and I just basically drew a shape for him and he executed them and they turned out amazingly well.