Gareth Pugh certainly knows how to stage a dramatic runway show! Exactly a year after setting the Victoria & Albert alight with his gothic Britannia themed show, he filled the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden to the brim with his grandiose Fall 2016 presentation. The show opened with Marie-Agnès Gillot- prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet, striding down the runway escorted by two male attendants, to take up a gilded throne on a raised dias. Clad in a handsome officer’s coat with matching suitcase and aviator sunglasses, she presided over the show- the fiercest mistress of ceremonies ever- her presence setting the stage for Mr. Pugh’s latest play on female domination.
It’s a theme he has visited time and again with varying degrees of humour and romance, but rather than focusing on female power, this time around Mr. Pugh emphasized female authority. The assertion of women being in charge (or rather command) was the theme that played out in this militaristic take on modern power dressing. His look was sleek and streamlined to the extreme, with no fluff or embellishments present to soften his onslaught of tailored suits, skinny outerwear and trim cocktail dresses.
Fashioned out of plain fabrics in vibrant neutrals, Price of Wales checks and electric blue, the garments came over as somewhat unforgiving, but they nonetheless looked great.
Gareth Pugh Fall 2016 had a strong and structural feel to it’s look, with heavy- shouldered silhouettes and body conscious shapes reminiscent of Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana’s 80s work, mixed with a sharp dose of twisted modernity that felt very fresh. Mr. Pugh’s women are clearly femme fatales (or corporate dominatrixes?), women whose sexuality is accentuated and increased by their authoritarian power, and the garments reflected this perfectly with their plunging necklines, thigh- high slits and body- hugging cuts.
Mr. Pugh elaborated on the immaculately tailored silhouettes of his Spring show for Fall 2016, emphasizing flared hemlines and slim bodices with tight, nipped-in waists and oversized collars. It’s been a while since skirt suits appeared on a European runway, and these were streamlined and compelling, especially when done in leather, brushed silks or wool, and covered with graphic appliquéd stars. There were some beautiful coats, skirts, shawls and corset- topped sheaf dresses, some livened up with wrapped detailing and trailing swags of fabric. Flared trousers were present, appearing under a bounty of terrific coats and jackets: military ones with large brass buttons, cosy wrapped numbers with built- in shawls and outsized sleeves, and dramatically flared swing styles with cape effects. A solid selection of wardrobe staples rounded out the looks- woolen turtlenecks, trim skirts and slim dresses- things that no well- stocked wardrobe should be without.
Mr. Pugh also produced some of the best shearling outwear to be seen this season; his wrap- waist jackets and belted coats were perfection with their pinched waists and face-framing collars, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything fiercer than his shearling- lined motorcycle jackets.
Super sharp stilettos, leather gloves and huge aviator shades were good accessories, while Hannibal Lecter masks, wide- brimmed hats and handcuffed briefcases were less exciting and too campy.
Mr. Pugh is well aware of the importance of a person’s dress to affecting subliminal impact on others and that women often use their clothes to project certain perceptions of themselves. This shows’ approach was quite literal to that fact. “Joan Crawford as Hannibal Lecter’s mistress,” is how he described the show, “This collection is exploring the visual codes of power in the corporate and political world. It’s not quite a celebration– it’s more an observation, and I am looking at the idea of how absolute power can corrupt, and perhaps even make a monster.” So models were styled to appear as monstrous as possible: their hair rolled into pointed updos, with black lips and talon-like nails, some girls wore leather masks, others had their faces augmented by elastic bands that lifted their cheeks and elongated their mouths- a macabre play on the lengths some women go to with cosmetic surgery.
It was all very dark- almost disturbing- but the beauty of his garments showed through. It’s a theatrical, darkly glamourous twist on the idea of modern power dressing, and an adaption that is highly covetable from the very first look. I can see people going wild over the sexy dresses, gorgeously- tailored suits and outerwear, Mr. Pugh’s probably going to sell piles of his shearling- lined leather motorcycle jackets alone!
It’s clear that Mr. Pugh is staking a claim on major fashion coverage with this collection… could this be a sign that the designer is putting his days as an experimental young talent behind him and heading into more commercial lanes? Longtime brand followers may take pleasure in this exercise, but some may miss the darker glamour upon which he built his name.
Commercial or not, it was completely fab!
Xx – Ana