You can bet that there were a few unsettled dreams from those in the front row after Gareth Pugh’s fashion show on Friday night. Pugh returned to the the London Fashion Week schedules after 7 years in Paris with a collection marking the 10th anniversary of his brand. Assembled guests at the VA museum expected something remarkable – and weren’t disappointed.
The show began with a creepy, hyper-real film in which a model hacked off her long blond hair with scissors, then smeared a red painted cross on her face as if preparing for battle. As the video bathed the catwalk in a red light, the models appeared, dressed in black, with the St George’s Cross on their faces.
The focus was on the silhouettes. There were curved helmets like Britannia’s battle gear, and huge furry hats with chain chin straps like Busbys. Sweeping A-line skirts recalled priest’s robes; stiff over-the-knee boots looked like those worn by cavalry. Bodices were stiff breastplates; fur was draped across shoulders like battle-won hides. Some wore duvet gowns, blown up like air bags, while others were covered in porcupine bristles.
But there was humour in the darkness – menacing headgear spikes were actually drinking straws and there were chants from Pugh’s local Sunderland FC on the soundtrack. But the overall effect remained unsettling – it was difficult to escape the troubling conclusion that so much of what England is known for is bloody history.
It may be tough to imagine who would wear these beautifully-made clothes, other than Daphne Guinness, for whom life is one long, sumptuous Halloween party, but it was a memorable, frightening experience and a very fitting return from British fashion’s prince of darkness.