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Gareth Pugh’s return to London fashion week did not disappoint

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.

A model at Gareth Pugh
Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

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.

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