Gareth Pugh has long been critical of the routines and pressures of the fashion industry. He questions the system he works in, rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon of starry front rows, buzzy cruise shows, Net-a-Porter capsules and influencer gifting. Editors fell over themselves recently to gush about how Vetements are 'revolutionising' fashion, but I’d argue that Pugh has been more forward-thinking and more daring in his role as the black sheep of fashion. He goes his own way.
This season, he eschewed the runway in favour of presenting his collection in a fashion film, screened at the BFI IMAX and made by SHOWstudio director Nick Knight, Pugh’s longterm collaborator (see the film above). It’s not the first time Pugh’s turned to film. Way back when, he did the same for A/W 09, surprising guests at Paris Fashion Week by presenting no models or clothes, but instead a film by Ruth Hogben. That’s nearly 10 years ago. Today everyone is embracing moving image - fashion film litters Instagram. Pugh was way ahead. It’s popular now to question the runway format - will fashion week continue? How is best to show? What’s the point of it all? Pugh’s also been considering all that for years.
He’s certainly fed up of the banality and safeness of the contemporary fashion landscape. Of the polite clapping. Of the lady-lady frocks and tasteful hues. The film opened with a collaborative performance with artist Olivier de Sagazan in which two men, played by Pugh and de Sagazan in business suits disfigure each other's faces and bodies in some primal outburst of energy. You could read it as Pugh’s response to fashion’s corporate pen-pushers and numbers-minded men in suits. It was hard to watch. His clothes were also aggressive, uncompromising, threatening both in colour and form. Many were haemoglobin red. Some looked as though they were on fire. Others featured the same shards and angles that have come to define Pugh’s work. They were unapologetic. Like Pugh or not, you left the show - or make that film premiere - feeling something - maybe it was disgust, maybe it was shock, maybe it was excitement. But I’d argue it’s better to feel anything than to be numbed by conformity.
After the show, Pugh dashed off to get married to his long-term partner Carson McColl. They deserve such happiness. And Pugh deserves great recognition.