Gareth Pugh would normally be showing in Paris. Instead, he staged that enormous “immersive presentation” in New York, so Paris had to make do with some one-on-ones in the showroom. Actually, it worked out really well, because it was the autumn equinox, and Pugh’s collection was fully informed by the pagan rituals attached to such calendar watersheds. Although in this case, it was obviously the rites of spring he had in mind. “I’ve had 10 years of doing this, and my last season in Paris I hit the reset button,” said Pugh. “It felt like the end of something signaling the beginning of something else. That’s why the phoenix is in the film.”
“I wanted it of the earth, rather than landed from a spaceship,” he continued, in tacit acknowledgment of the fact that his clothes often remind people of something extraterrestrial. So there were corn dolly hats, and steer skulls made from papier-mâché, and a playsuit fashioned after Scottish Burrymen, who would be ritualistically covered with thistles and other sticky things (here, the “thistles” were little flowers of chiffon, arduously attached by hand). There was also a huge round circle, like a satellite dish covered with hand-ripped rags of chiffon, that echoed a folkloric outfit known as the Padstow Obby Oss. There was a proper scarecrow made from sackcloth, too. Pugh worked with Simon Costin, from the Museum of British Folklore, to get everything right.
But he cleverly transmuted those obvious showpieces into actual clothes. Handkerchief-hem dresses composed of chiffon rags in white had a virginal purity that seemed destined for the May queen. The sackcloth was cut into the same silhouette. “It hangs like silk gazar,” Pugh enthused. “I love the inexpensive looking luxurious.”
“Frayed luxury,” he called it. Well executed, but a bit haphazard. It was a new way to view Pugh. He liked the fact that the black and white geometries that are a signature fabric for him felt like they’d been made on a loom, with a bit of a slub. The same pattern was duplicated in the silk chiffon of a bias-cut goddess gown, as a reminder that Pugh knows exactly what he is doing. His precision as a designer may have been most obvious in the way he took the big leather pentagrams he’d had made (rustic paganism gone truly occult) and turned them into sensational harnesses, the kind of item that would add sinister spine to any old piece of tat you chose to wear.