Celebrating a milestone decade of creating fearlessly, Gareth Pugh triumphantly marked the occasion with his return to London, and to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Plunging the room into darkness, the show opened with a film projection of a lone woman bathed in eerie red light, the symbol of both love and war, in a film directed by long-time collaborator Ruth Hogben. The footage showed a lone defiant muse as she coarsely hacked off her long blonde hair then, in another act of liberation, anointed herself smearing the red of Saint George’s cross over her face, arms and chest.
Pugh is a provocateur who creates, as much as he challenges, with an army of warrior women. Tonight Britannia-like-crowns led the black-on-black warrior crusade of modern beauty and body-armour that stormed around the great hall not waiting for the lights to rise. In a spectacle of silhouettes, furs, metallics, thorn-like sequins, leathers and billowing lightest silks Pugh has never conformed to the blandness of trends, he is much more rooted in inspiring a narrative and pushing on his creative quest. The eerie music and the chanting war cries ‘go on, go on’ seemed symbolic of his own rule-breaking career as he returns from Paris to the city where it all started. In an industry so preoccupied by sales and searching out the next big thing, while the chants, a recording from Sunderland Football Club, grew louder and the red cross of patron Saint George smeared over every models face, made you think of battle’s creative face. Gareth Pugh remains both defiant of conforming, yet shows his prowess of drape, cut and concept, and has a growing legion of sales and his gowns captured the strength and skill that has set him apart since he debuted at Fashion East.