AFTER DARK – Gareth Pugh’s Night Fever

It’s been six months since Judy Blame (one of British fashion’s most iconic – and iconoclastic – designers, and one of the last survivors of London’s legendary Eighties generation) died, at the age of 58. In the days and weeks afterwards, there were many tributes to his life and work. But none was perhaps as powerful as Gareth Pugh’s SS19 show, which was presented as an explicit tribute – but which also looked forward, to the future of Blame’s legacy, and to his influence on a new generation.

Gareth Pugh Spring/Summer 2019 show in London. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

Pugh and Blame were regular collaborators, and both began their careers with everyday items; where Blame used safety pins, buttons, and string to concoct his unmistakeable accessories, Pugh made his name with extraordinary clothes fabricated from bin bags and balloons. And whilst, over the years, his fabrics (and price-points) may have become more high-end, he’s always remained faithful to his origins – to the rigour of British tailoring, to the extravagance and flair of the East London clubbing scene, and to the performers and provocateurs who came before him; not just Blame, but Leigh Bowery, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and all the others.

So his show was dominated by the rich vocabulary he’s honed over his career – but this time out everything was blown up to the maximum. Models stormed through the earth-strewn Selfridges hotel, an apocalyptic half-ruin in the heart of London, in blown-up star prints and power-shouldered suits, towering over the audience in their steep platform-soled boots. Colours were extreme too – magenta foil, patent orange leather, blood-red plastic trenches. And whilst there was a new softness in Pugh’s tailoring, with silhouettes overflowing with fabric, there was plenty of clubland anarchy too, from bondage-strap belts to hair-fringed dresses, and from Bowery-esque face masks to skulls plastered with Band-Aids.

Gareth Pugh Spring/Summer 2019 show in London. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

Fittingly, the show segued into an afterparty Drag Ball staged in Blame’s honour, and featuring some of the UK scene’s rising stars. And the sheer energy, exuberance, and imagination of the whole night made for a fitting tribute.